Monday, October 26, 2009

Big Crashes Looming at Wednesday's Hearing on Bill Allen's Sentence


There are at least two big collisions coming up on Wednesday morning at the Bill Allen sentencing hearing:

1. The federal government's new attorneys running into the high-priced Washington lawyers with their flashy records in high-profile cases.

2. The view of many Alaskans that Bill Allen is one of the worst sleazebags the Last Frontier has ever seen smashing into the reality that the government has often given breaks to a devil to get his help in putting away even bigger devils--as well as the long history the federal government has of seeing the public officials who take bribes as worse wrongdoers than the private citizens who pay them.

As to the first conflict, long-time VECO CEO Bill Allen has gone Outside for help. Previously relying on former U.S. Attorney--and long-time Alaska lawyer--Bob Bundy as his chief counsel, Allen has now added at least three heavy hitters from the Washington, D.C. office of the international law firm of White & Case. With 37 offices in 25 countries, White & Case has more than 2,000 lawyers and reported more annual revenues than even VECO ever boasted--almost $1.5 billion at last count.

Allen's best-known new lawyer is George Terwilliger, the global head of White & Case's White Collar Practice Group, but probably more famous to you as one of the key lawyers for George W. Bush in the Florida recount following the 2000 presidential election. Terwilliger also served as Deputy Attorney General--the Justice Department's No. 2 job--in President George H.W. Bush's administration, and has also prosecuted the infamous BCCI and defended the Bank of America.

Terwilliger and Bundy are aided by two other D.C. lawyers with fancy resumes. Robert Bittman was Deputy Independent Counsel in the investigation of President Bill Clinton headed by Ken Starr, and was Chief Prosecutor in charge of the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Daniel Levin has held a number of important jobs in the federal government, including Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Chief of Staff to both the Attorney General and the FBI Director.

Up against these luminaries are three lesser-known lawyers for the Department of Justice who may well hope to gain greater financial rewards in Big D.C. law if they can show well in this case. The names of these prosecutors are James Trusty (really), Kevin Gingras, and Peter Koski.

So far the government attorneys have been doing better in the pre-sentencing fencing in front of Judge John Sedwick. The court has denied some big last-minute motions filed by the defense, and Judge Sedwick appears strongly inclined to hold this sentencing on Wednesday morning and come down hard on the defendant.

The court may not slam Allen as hard as some Alaskans would want. Allen is going to get credit for helping to bring some public officials to book, and this cooperation will serve to reduce his sentence--just not as much as Allen's high-powered lawyers want.

And however titanic this struggle plays out in the abstract and in the hundreds of pages of legal filings in the last week and a half, the actual sentencing hearing is still supposed to fit into the 90 minutes allotted for it. The lawyers from Washington might want to talk a lot, the famously inarticulate Allen has a right to make his own statement in open court, and it’s safe to assume the judge will have prepared some forceful and pithy remarks for this historic occasion. It promises to be a jam-packed hour and a half.

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