ANCHORAGE - Former state Rep. Vic Kohring was in federal court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty on a new indictment handed up last week.
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His trial on charges of conspiracy, extortion, attempted extortion and bribery is set to begin in Anchorage on Oct. 22.
The new indictment alleges that Kohring fired an aide at the request of VECO executive Bill Allen and dates the conspiracy to 2002 when Kohring allegedly took illegal cash payments of $500 to $1,000 from Allen and a VECO vice president, Rick Smith.
Defense lawyer Wayne Ross, who represented Kohring at the hearing, said he thought the government added the allegations so close to trial because "they're worried."
Kohring said he has high hopes for the trial, shaking hands with prosecutors and giving a thumbs-up to a TV crew.
"I'm feeling good and it's a beautiful day. I'm optimistic and healthy and that's 90 percent of it."
Kohring's chief defense lawyer, John Henry Browne of Seattle, had sought to have the trial moved to the Seattle area, arguing that local media coverage would make selection of an impartial jury impossible in Alaska.
U.S. District Judge John Sedwick denied the request on Tuesday.
While there's been "a barrage of publicity" about Kohring, three other indicted legislators, VECO and its executives, it hasn't been inflammatory, the judge said.
The court was able to seat juries with relative ease in the corruption trials of former Reps. Tom Anderson and Pete Kott, Sedwick noted.
"To put it bluntly, a surprising number of prospective jurors are just not interested in, and do not follow, local news," Sedwick wrote. "Among those who do read the newspaper, many simply glance at the local news headlines while moving on to areas of interest such as sports or gardening."
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