Federal prosecutors defend Kott verdict

Officials urge judge to reject new trial

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Federal prosecutors are urging the judge who presided over the trial in which former state House Speaker Pete Kott was convicted on bribery charges to reject Kott's request for a new trial.

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They said Kott knew what he was doing when he accepted bribes for taking official action.

Kott represented Eagle River as a Republican in the state House of Representatives for seven terms but moved to Juneau after losing a 2006 re-election bid.

Prosecutor James Goeke, an assistant U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Sections, said the jury's verdict was clear.

"The jury heard evidence of Kott's receipt of things of value, Kott's performance of official acts, and Kott's own words connecting the two," he said.

After Kott's conviction on multiple criminal counts, his attorney called the verdict flawed, and asked Judge John Sedwick to set it aside.

Kott's attorney James Wendt, in his appeal to the judge, claimed that Kott had been convicted of taking "illegal campaign contributions," which prosecutors hotly disputed.

"The government stridently disagrees with Kott's characterization as such, and noted that it is in fact Kott, who repeatedly, and for his own benefit, attempted to portray these payments as a benefit to Kott's campaign," Goeke said.

The federal prosecutor responded that they provided evidence that despite Kott's claims, the payments had been made as bribes, not campaign contributions.

Goeke also said that Kott's claims of a "legislative immunity doctrine" were without merit, or even without an explanation of what such a doctrine was supposed to be.

"To the extent that Kott claims that his official acts as a legislator cannot be used against him in a criminal trial, the law is squarely to the contrary," he said.

Kott was convicted on three felony counts in late September. His attorney filed a request for a new trial a week later.

No date has yet been set for Sedwick to decide the appeals.

Sentencing for Kott has been set for Dec. 7 in Anchorage.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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