Feds oppose trial move for Weyhrauch

U.S prosecutors say Juneau venue too inconvenient for them

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007

Federal prosecutors are objecting to a request by former state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, to move his trial to Juneau, saying that Anchorage would be more convenient for them and just as convenient for him.

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Weyhrauch and former House Speaker Pete Kott are both Juneau residents now, and Weyhrauch said a trial in Anchorage would impose a significant cost and inconvenience to him and his family.

Prosecutors said Anchorage's central location made it a better location for a trial, and there was nothing wrong with holding it there.

"It is hardly unfair that an indictment involving events that occurred in both Anchorage and Juneau be tried in Anchorage," they wrote in a court filing.

And even if the trial is moved to Juneau, the defendants will not save money because while they won't have to travel to Anchorage, they will have the expense of bringing their Anchorage lawyers to Juneau, they said.

"Anchorage is as convenient for the defendants as Juneau," prosecutors said.

Weyhrauch's attorneys were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors questioned whether the staff at the federal courthouse in Juneau was technically savvy enough to handle a trial with numerous video and audio recordings to be played for the jury. In addition, they said the crimes which Weyhrauch is accused of committing happened almost as much in Anchorage as they did in Juneau.

"Many of the acts alleged in the indictment that occurred in Anchorage and involved defendant Weyhrauch were initiated by defendant Weyhrauch when he contacted individuals in Anchorage," they said.

The federal prosecutors also said that because Anchorage is the state's largest city, it has better plane flight and lodging availability.

"Air transportation to and from Anchorage is significantly more reliable than Juneau given the additional airport infrastructure in Anchorage," the prosecutors said.

Other facilities in Juneau are limited as well, they said.

"The small FBI office in Juneau is not large enough to accommodate the amount of attorneys and support staff, computers and printers and copiers, and other resources the government would need to set up and utilize during trial," they wrote.

The U.S. Attorney also does not maintain an office in Juneau, they said.

While prosecutors acknowledge that the Juneau courtroom has recently had an overhead display projector installed, they didn't know whether it would work.

"This setup has not been tested during a lengthy trial," they wrote.

The U.S attorney acknowledged that there had been "several issues" with presenting monitors, projectors and sound equipment during the recently completed trial of former Rep. Tom Anderson in Anchorage, but said there were technical staff there that are not available in Juneau to deal with them.

Weyhrauch's attorney Doug Pope also said there had been extensive publicity in Anchorage, with the Anchorage paper commenting about Weyhrauch and Kott on its editorial pages.

"Since the Anderson trial began, the Juneau paper has refrained from commenting on its editorial page," he wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors responded they were confident that an unbiased jury could be seated no matter where the trial was held, but it would be easier in Anchorage given its large population.

Weyhrauch's trial is set for Sept. 5. No date has yet been set for the change of venue motion.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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