Kott cites good works, seeks short sentence

Former lawmaker to be sentenced Friday

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Convicted former legislator Pete Kott is asking for a shorter sentence than prosecutors want, saying the bribes he took were so small they don't merit the lengthy sentence they are suggesting.

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"Mr. Kott is not a typical bribe taker," said James Wendt, Kott's attorney, in a court filing urging federal District Judge John Sedwick to go easy on his client.

The former Eagle River representative, now a Juneau resident, was convicted on three bribery and extortion charges in September as part of an FBI investigation into corruption in the Alaska Legislature.

Sedwick is scheduled to sentence Kott on Friday.

A legislator for 14 years, Kott served as speaker of the House of Representatives for two years. He was defeated in a re-election bid in the summer of 2006 in the Republican primary.

In surveillance tapes made by the FBI, Kott came across as a hard-drinking, vulgar political operator.

Kott's girlfriend of several years, Debora Stovern, said that she knew the real Pete Kott, and that was not him.

"The real Pete is a model of decorum and respect," she wrote.

Wendt said that three bribes that prosecutors claim didn't even go to Kott. One was a reimbursement from oil field services company VECO Corp. for a $1,000 campaign contribution Kott made to then-Gov. Frank Murkowski for his unsuccessful re-election bid. Another went to his son for work on his campaign, and the third was a poll that Wendt said Kott didn't want, didn't get and never used.

"Not only is the only significant bribe for the benefit of another person, but his history demonstrates that he is a selfless, decent man," Wendt said.

Other actions claimed to be bribes were either jokes or small talk, not actually bribes, he said.

VECO was building a prison for the government of Barbados, and Kott and VECO owner Bill Allen joked about Kott's becoming a warden there. That was obviously a joke, because VECO was only the contractor, not the operator of the prison, he said.

Similarly, talk of Kott becoming a lobbyist for VECO was simply idle chatter, as evidenced by the fact that Kott was never hired as lobbyist, he said.

Juneau lobbyist Don Etheridge, representing the AFL-CIO, was one of a number of people who had worked with Kott and spoke highly of him.

Kott, he said, was very "supportive of the working man and could always be counted on to do right by them," Etheridge wrote in a letter to the judge.

In all, 29 people sent letters to the judge in defense of Kott.

Kott's former chief of staff, Judy Ohmer of Juneau, wrote that the person on the tapes was different from the person who was her boss.

"Whether it was running out to help someone with an overflowing washing machine, a flat tire, a lost dog or a dead battery, Pete was someone people would call knowing he'd do what he could to fix the situation," she said.

Wendt said it was not necessary to come down hard on Kott to serve as a deterrent to other lawmakers.

"The shame associated with a felony conviction is sufficient to deter individuals such as Mr. Kott from engaging in felony behavior. It is not necessary to impose a long period of incarceration on Mr. Kott to serve as an example to others," he said.

Wendt said a sentence of two years and nine months would be fair, considering how small the bribes Kott took were.

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

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