Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jim Clark Looks Likely to Be Free for Another Year


Here is some news and some rank speculation concerning the closed hearing this morning about the timing of the sentencing of Jim Clark, former Chief of Staff to former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

The news is short enough to print in full. Judge John Sedwick issued an order reading "The sentencing in this case is CONTINUED until October 15, 2010 at 8:30 a.m. ...If the case of U.S. v. resolved at the trial court level prior to September of 2010, the court will move Mr. Clark's sentencing to an earlier date."

Now for the rank speculation.

This order makes it look like the government said today that it was going to call Clark as a witness against former State Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau), whose case has been sidetracked on a pre-trial appeal that will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court during its 2009-2010 term.

I find it difficult to believe that Judge Sedwick let the government keep Jim Clark free for another 14 months just so he could be ready to testify against Weyhrauch, particularly given that the judge had already explicitly said that Clark could be brought out of prison for purposes of testifying if that was the only reason not to put him in. It's possible that Clark's attorney pointed to some unusual medical problems as a reason to keep Clark out of prison now, but the specific--and particular--sentencing date as well as the reference to Weyhrauch's case militate against that as being the reason behind today's order.

It strikes me as likely that the prosecutors also said that they needed to milk Clark for more information on what happened regarding corruption involving the development and consideration of oil tax legislation in 2005 and 2006 and that in today's 19-minute closed hearing they gave Judge Sedwick enough to accept that argument as a reason to keep Clark out of prison for another 14 months beyond the 17 months he's already been out. Note that October of 2010 is also five years--the general federal statute of limitations--past the start of the time when most criminal activity appeared to have occurred regarding the Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) legislation. As to who the targets of that continued debriefing of Clark would be, the obvious guesses would be former State Senate President Ben Stevens (R.-Anchorage) and Frank Murkowski. (Neither of the latter two have been charged, Ben Stevens has repeatedly denied any wrongoing, and Frank Murkowski's well-known hands-off approach to his job might serve as a good defense to any criminal charge.)

The bottom line is that Jim Clark looks likely to be free to enjoy the whole Alaska winter--as well as next summer--while former VECO executives and admitted bribers Bill Allen and Rick Smith appear headed for prison this fall.

(Hat tip to the astute reader who flagged this order and asked me good questions about it.)

Update: I cleaned up the spacing and added the job title for Ben Stevens.


Julie said...

Well, of course the intent is that by October 2010 no one will remember what this is all about and a little slap on the wrist with some finger wagging will send this fellow on his way.

You Alaskan bloggers are to be much admired for keeping stories about culprits like this in front of us.

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