Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Will Prosecutors Address Issues of Bill Allen's Credibility at His Sentencing?


Most Alaskans are probably looking at the October 28 sentencing of disgraced oil-services titan Bill Allen in terms of how hard the judge hammers the admitted briber.

A number of citizens will cheer at the harsh sentence and the tough language Judge John Sedwick is expected to hand down a week from tomorrow. Already bad due to his confessed corruption of state legislators, the reputation of the former VECO chieftain has recently taken further hits from revelations about issues involving the truthfulness of some of his testimony as a federal witness as well as additional disclosures regarding allegations of his sexual abuse of minors. (Note that Allen has denied committing crimes with underage girls.)

Lawyers will watch how roughly the judge treats Allen, but some attorneys are also wondering about how prosecutors will deal with the issues about the former CEO’s credibility that helped produce the collapse of the Ted Stevens case months after a jury had returned guilty verdicts against the long-time U.S. Senator from Alaska. Allen was a key witness against his former friend Ted Stevens, and also played a critical role in the prosecutions of former State Reps. Pete Kott (R.-Eagle River) and Vic Kohring (R.-Wasilla). Kott and Kohring were convicted at trials, but the two ex-legislators are now free while Judge Sedwick sorts out allegations of prosecution misconduct that arose after the end of the Ted Stevens case.

Prosecutors have to show their hand on the question of how to think about Allen’s cooperation as a witness no later than tomorrow. That’s because court rules make tomorrow the deadline to file sentencing memoranda to help guide Judge Sedwick on the sentencings October 28 of Allen and his former subordinate Rick Smith.

With his permission, I will outsource a further discussion of the prosecution’s dilemma to a thoughtful reader of this blog, Fairbanks lawyer Mark Regan:

The really fascinating question is whether the Feds are going to hint in any way that Allen should get a harsher sentence because he might have lied on the stand in the Stevens trial. ("Might have lied on the stand" includes, for present purposes, "Exhibited more certainty about the 'Ted is just covering his ass' conversation" than would have been warranted given his initial, undisclosed, difficulty remembering that conversation.")

Here's what the subtext of a full-disclosure, sackcloth-and-ashes Federal presentation might be:

We continue to believe that the public officials we indicted were corrupt and that prosecuting their corruption was in the public interest. Eliciting Allen's cooperation was in the public interest also, as was the decision to leave him free while he was testifying against the legislators. When non-officials bribe officials, or when non-officials and officials conspire to deprive the public of the officials' honest services, the harshest penalties should go against the officials in order to deter other officials and express community condemnation of official misconduct. That said, however, it is possible that in some cases the cooperating witnesses will exaggerate their testimony and that federal prosecutors will assist in that exaggeration. There is an ongoing federal investigation about whether our predecessor prosecutors did this here. Without prejudging that investigation now, we would suggest that if you conclude that Allen exaggerated his testimony against official defendants, you give him no leniency in sentencing him based on his cooperation. If he wants to admit error, or claim that our predecessors coerced him into giving exaggerated testimony, let him say that now. If he wants to withdraw his plea, please let him do it ... and then, let's rock.

I certainly don't expect them to say this that directly -- but wouldn't it be amazing if they hinted at it?

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