Thursday, October 29, 2009

Did Judge Sedwick Just Stamp a Seal of Approval on Bill Allen's Payments to Ben Stevens?


From Mark Regan:

No. The issue Judge John Sedwick was deciding at Bill Allen’s sentencing yesterday morning was whether, for purposes of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the payments to Ben Stevens were more like bribes, or like gratuities. There’s no dispute that a lot of money was involved. Bill Allen’s plea agreement addendum says that while Ben Stevens was in the State Senate, VECO paid him a total of almost $250,000. However, there’s also no dispute that the monthly payments began well before Ben Stevens went into the State Senate and continued for more than 10 years. The payments didn’t seem to be payments for anything in particular: they didn’t go up or down when Ben Stevens did something in the Legislature that helped Bill Allen. Nor were the payments particularly secret: they eventually appeared on Ben Stevens’ financial disclosure forms.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, bribes are worse than gratuities. If at sentencing prosecutors show that a particular payment was a bribe instead of a gratuity, the sentence the defendant gets goes up. But the fact that Judge Sedwick decided that Bill Allen’s payments to Ben Stevens were only gratuities doesn’t mean the payments were legal. They could still have been part of a scheme to defraud Alaskans of Ben Stevens’ honest services, or of wire fraud, or of extortion. Or they could have been perfectly innocent. Judge Sedwick didn’t decide that issue, one way or the other.

--Mark Regan

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