Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Jury Empaneled, Opening Arguments Launched On Second Day Of Trial Of Former Alaska Representative Vic Kohring
The process of jury selection for the trial of former Alaska State Representative Vic Kohring, begun on Monday October 22nd, 2007, was concluded today (Tuesday) as a jury of seven men and five women, along with three alternates, was formally empaneled by noon and both sides introduced their opening arguments during the afternoon. Full stories from KIMO Channel 13, KTVA Channel 11, the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU Channel 2. Judge John Sedwick is presiding.
Kohring (pictured above left) is charged with four felony charges including bribery and conspiracy. He is accused of taking bribes from executives with Veco Corp. to push the interests of North Slope oil producers on an oil tax.
Click HERE to view revised 21-page Kohring indictment in PDF format.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini opened up for the prosecution by saying the case is about how Kohring misused his position of public trust for personal gain. Bottini said Kohring took multiple cash payments from Allen and was "ready, willing and able to help the people who were paying him." Bottini further stated that wiretaps and secret video recordings made by the FBI during the 2006 legislative session will show Kohring dropping hints to Allen that he needed money. He said Allen will testify that he would hand over hundreds of dollars at a time to Kohring.
Defense Attorney John Henry Browne said Bill Allen, the former head of VECO Corporation, had multiple personal and financial motives for helping federal prosecutors in their corruption case against Kohring. Browne further said that Allen cut a deal with federal prosecutors that spared Allen's children from prosecution, spared his company from prosecution, and may spare Allen a lengthy jail sentence. He also portrayed the relationship between Allen and Kohring as "rich guy-poor guy" working for the same political goals, and reminded jurors that Kohring was just a regular guy who slept on a couch and lived in a trailer. Browne has been working this angle for the past couple of weeks, and it's further discussed in an October 17th story published in the Anchorage Daily News.
John Henry Browne also said the tapes will prove Kohring never did anything wrong. He claims that on the tapes, former VECO executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith boast they own lawmaker after lawmaker. That includes Senator Ted Stevens, Congressman Don Young, Ben Stevens, Tom Anderson, and Pete Kott. Nowhere on the tape is Kohring ever mentioned. Even though Kohring was in money trouble, Browne claims former VECO executives Allen and Smith were just helping out their friend.
On Monday, lawyers began winnowing down a statewide jury pool of 70 citizens to end up with the twelve empaneled today. This jury includes a miner, an aviation expert, a courier for Cal Worthington Ford and a mom from Nikiski who homeschools her children. Six live in Anchorage, plus two in Eagle River. One each is from Dillingham, Palmer and Nikiski. The final juror lives along the Glenn Highway past Palmer. The hometowns of the alternates were not disclosed. Half of the jury has served in the military.
Prognosis: Vic Kohring may have the best chance of all of them to get acquitted. It will depend upon how the tapes are presented and how well Kohring can rebut them. If Kohring is indeed guilty, he should fess up now to get a lighter sentence and preserve some of his honor. Both Tom Anderson and Pete Kott loudly asserted their innocence before and during their respective trials; afterwards, Anderson acknowledged his guilt. Kott intends to appeal but switched to an "alcohol" defense one day before the end of his trial.
By the way, we got our first official snowfall of the season here in Anchorage - 0.7 inches. Winter's here, itz!