Weyhrauch's corruption trial delayed

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2010

Former Juneau Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch's corruption trial, scheduled to begin next month, has been further delayed after Weyhrauch's attorney called the date "unrealistic."

Weyhrauch was indicted in 2007 on multiple charges in connection with the federal investigation into bribes paid to Alaska legislators and others by VECO Corp., an oil field services firm owned by Bill Allen, which was once a major player in Alaska construction, politics and media.

Weyhrauch, a lawyer, sought work from VECO as the Alaska Legislature was considering oil tax legislation worth billions to the oil industry.

Weyhrauch and former Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, were indicted at the same time, but Weyhrauch fought some of the basis of the charges against him all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the two cases were split.

Kott was convicted on separate counts, but has been released from prison while he appeals due to new evidence brought to light as former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens fought his corruption conviction. After a federal judge said the same prosecution team that was handling the Weyhrauch case withheld evidence from Stevens, the Stevens conviction was vacated.

Weyhrauch was pursuing his own legal defense strategy against the federal "honest services" statute under which he was being charged.

After the Supreme Court in June issued a ruling in favor of former Enron Corp. executive Jeff Skilling on the same topic, Weyhrauch's case was sent back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

It is unlikely that the case could be tried at its scheduled Sept. 13 start date, and in a hearing that lasted four minutes Friday morning, Federal Judge John Sedwick canceled the hearing and has yet to set a new date.

Weyhrauch's appearance at the hearing was by phone.

Legal battles about what evidence federal prosecutors can use against Weyhrauch remain ongoing in appeals court, and rulings may come after the trial date.

Weyhrauch's attorney, Douglas Pope of Anchorage, sought the cancellation.

"Weyhrauch had incurred significant costs preparing for trial," so far, Pope said in a court filing.

He "did not want Weyhrauch to be subject to additional costs for 'ramping up' to a trial and then have the case continued to a later date," Pope said.

The federal appeals court received a formal order from the U.S. Supreme Court sending Weyhrauch's case back to them for consideration in light of its Skilling ruling. The court asked each side to submit its opinions on what the Skilling case meant in two weeks.

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

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