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Lawmakers praise tough sentence, but some think it was not enough

Posted: Sunday, December 09, 2007

Alaska legislators reported some mixed views on the six-year sentence handed down to former state Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River.

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Kott, who now lives in Juneau, was a legislator for 14 years, including two years as House Speaker. He was convicted in September on three corruption counts, including bribery and corruption.

A jury found that Kott had taken bribes from VECO Corp., then an oil field services company that was seeking lower tax rates on oil production in Alaska.

Current House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, called Kott's sentence fair.

Federal Judge John Sedwick sentenced Kott to more than what is called for under federal sentencing guidelines, but said the harsher sentence was merited.

Harris agreed.

"Somebody sitting in the position I'm in, or Pete Kott was in, probably ought to be held to a little higher standard than somebody else," he said.

Kott's sentence is likely to be a deterrent to future legislators offered or soliciting bribes, he said.

"It would be for me, I'll tell you that," he said.

Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, House Minority Leader, called the sentence Kott received very harsh.

"Six years in federal prison is a long time," she said. "There's just no way it isn't."

Federal prosecutors sought 10 to 12 years, while defense attorney James Wendt asked for less than three years.

Kerttula acknowledged that while she felt sorry for Kott, a serious crime had been committed.

"Over the last year the public trust has been terribly violated," she said, "It's hard to fashion an appropriate sentence for something like that."

Kerttula, an attorney who spent five years as a public defender, said she'd spent enough time visiting jails and prisons to know how hard such a sentence would be on Kott.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said he thought Kott got off with less than he should have.

"It was so egregious, I would have liked to see 10 years," he said.

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

Related story: Ex-legislator Kott given six years in prison



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