Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Former Alaska State Representative Pete Kott Found Guilty Of Conspiracy, Bribery, And Extortion; Not Guilty Of Wire Fraud

The hammer fell as I predicted, but faster than I thought. I thought the jury might need at least two or three days in case they needed to go back through what was a mountain of evidence.

Apparently not. After deliberating for a day, at approximately 3:00 P.M. Alaska time on September 25th, a federal jury this afternoon convicted former state Rep. Pete Kott on three of four corruption charges against him and acquitted him of one. Full story just published in the Anchorage Daily News. Additional coverage on KTVA Channel 11 and KIMO Channel 13. Reaction from some state lawmakers covered HERE.

The 12 jurors found him guilty of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. They found him not guilty of wire fraud. And it wasn't even close. According to the 5:00 P.M. Report on KTUU Channel 2, eleven of the jurors actually were ready to find him guilty at the close of business on Monday. The twelfth, while also convinced of Kott's guilt, wanted to "sleep on it" just to make sure there wasn't a rush to judgment.

Jurors who spoke to the media said that Kott lacked credibility, particularly when he was tesifying on the witness stand. One juror was offended by the fact that Kott would "lie to his friends" but still stick to his principles.

Kott's attorney Jim Wendt said he "almost certainly" will appeal the verdicts. Wendt believes that if jurors had really done their homework, they would not have found Kott guilty of bribery or extortion. This implies that Wendt conceded the conspiracy count, which might explain the sudden switch last Friday to a "hillbilly defense" strategy, playing up Kott's alcohol consumption to promote an image of impaired guilt rather than absolute innocence.

The prosecution asked that Kott be required to post a $25,000 cash bond in order to stay out of jail until he is sentenced. Wendt told U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick that his client doesn't have that kind of money. As a result, Judge Sedwick rejected the prosecution request, saying he saw no reason to impose a bond. Judge Sedwick set sentencing for 8:30 a.m. December 7th.

The prosecution asked that Kott be required to post a $25,000 cash bond in order to stay out of jail until he is sentenced.

Wendt told the judge his client doesn't have that kind of money. Sedwick rejected the prosecution request, saying he saw no reason to impose a bond.

In Anchorage, Governor Sarah Palin called the process that led to Kott's conviction "fair," and said jurors should be commended for their "careful consideration of the compelling evidence that was before them." In her written statement, the governor further stated, "I was shocked by some of the revelations that came out in the trial and I can understand why many Alaskans feel betrayed."

In closing, Jim Wendt wanted people should remember Kott as someone who worked hard on behalf of Alaskans. "I just want them to know that he worked for their interests, he just wanted a gas pipeline," he said.

Kott represented the Eagle River area in the Legislature for 14 years and was a former speaker of the House. Former Anchorage Assemblywoman Anna Fairclough ended his House career by defeating him in the August 2006 Republican primary, afterwards cruising to victory over Democrat Karla Huntington.

Commentary: How do you counter audiotape and videotape? Even the O.J. jury would have had to find Kott guilty.

What convinced me of Kott's guilt was when the defense suddenly played the "alcohol card" and launched the "hillbilly defense" last Friday. At that point, I believe Kott and his attorney may have figured the case was lost and decided to project an "impaired guilt" image, hoping the jury might buy off on it and convict him only of conspiracy.

On KTUU, the reporter stated that the length of Kott's sentence will be affected by whether or not the judge believes Kott told the truth during his testimony. If not, then a probable sentence range would be anywhere from 63-78 months.

Interesting. A lawmaker can get 78 months in prison for selling his office, yet in Salt Lake, Shaun Walker got 87 months for getting into two bar fights. That speaks volumes about the integrity and priorities of our system.

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