Key corruption figures could be sentenced soon

Judge put off sentencing for former VECO executives Allen, Smith seven times since 2007

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The deadline has passed for prosecutors to seek a new delay in the sentencing of former VECO Corp. chief executive Bill Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska politicians and was the government's star witness in the federal corruption trial against former Sen. Ted Stevens.

The possibility exists that a motion to delay the Oct. 28 sentencing was filed under seal. If it wasn't, Allen and former VECO Vice President Rick Smith could soon learn their punishment.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick accepted their guilty pleas to bribery, conspiracy and tax violations in 2007. In the more than two years since, Sedwick agreed to stay their sentencings seven times while the pair testified in trials.

But Sedwick said there have been enough delays.

"Allen's crimes are significant ones which involve the integrity of the political process in the State of Alaska," Sedwick wrote in a July order accepting the previous government-proposed delay but suggesting it should be the last. "The community has a substantial interest in seeing the imposition of punishment for these crimes without undue delay."

In that order, he said if prosecutors needed an additional delay, they would have to comply with a much tougher standard. They had to file a detailed statement by Oct. 12 in which they would identify the potential defendants against whom Allen and Smith were providing information, the date by which a grand jury would indict the defendants, the districts in which they would be tried, and the likelihood that Allen or Smith would be called to testify.

Prosecutors often try to delay the sentencing of government witnesses as an incentive for their cooperation. By helping the government, a defendant can get a more lenient sentence.

VECO was an Anchorage-based company that performed maintenance, construction and design work for oil companies. Allen has testified that he offered bribes in exchange for legislation favorable to the petroleum industry.

Allen was the lead witness in Stevens' trial, and he and Smith testified in the trials of former House speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, and former Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla. Former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, is awaiting trial on charges he conspired with VECO officials.

Charges against Stevens were tossed when the Justice Department admitted it failed to turn over evidence favorable to the defense prior to trial. The same issue has led to the release of Kott and Kohring from prison while Sedwick decides whether to dismiss charges or order new trials.

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