Friday, October 8, 2010

Jim Clark Walks, But Has to Keep Cooperating with the Feds


Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrowing of the application of a critical statute, the federal government has agreed to dismiss the case against Jim Clark, even though the ex-Chief of Staff to former Gov. Frank Murkowski had pleaded guilty back in March of 2008.

The problem for the feds is that the law that Clark pleaded guilty to violating was the honest services fraud statute, which the Supreme Court performed radical surgery on last June. The part that Clark admitted that he ran afoul of while Chief of Staff had been cut off, so as the law stands now the indictment did not charge him with an actual crime.

Although a federal judge must approve this agreement to throw out the charge against Clark, it seems highly likely that this will be a mere formality.

The feds made a big point in their filing today that they are holding Clark to his plea bargain, which requires him to cooperate with the government in the investigation and prosecution of others in return for the government not charging Clark with other crimes.

The only “other” out there now would appear to be ex-State Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau), who is charged with bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. Weyhrauch’s case is back in District Court in Anchorage after having traveled up to the Supreme Court (where he was one of the winning defendants in the decision last June cutting back the scope of the honest services fraud statute) and down again.

Weyhrauch’s case is also the only one left unadjudicated in the seven-year-old federal investigation into Alaska public corruption that the feds call “POLAR PEN.” Of the 12 people charged in the probe, only three are in prison now: former VECO CEO Bill Allen; former VECO VP Rick Smith; and former State Rep. Tom Anderson (R.-Anchorage).

Disclosure: Bruce Weyhrauch is the defendant in the cases arising from the federal probe into Alaska public corruption that I know the best personally. I worked with Bruce Weyhrauch when we both served on the staff of the Alaska Legislature in the early 1980s and have socialized with him some since then. I have seen him less since I moved away from Juneau in the early 1990s, and he has never discussed this case with me.

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