Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prediction: The Feds Are Not Going to Re-Try Vic Kohring and Pete Kott, as the Department of Justice Will Turn Mother's Picture to the Wall

Anchorage-- Since the reversals last month of the corruption-related convictions of former State Reps. Vic Kohring (R.-Wasilla) and Pete Kott (R.-Eagle River), Alaskans have asked whether the U.S. Department of Justice will put them on trial again. I don't think so.

I have explained this to people by recalling a scene from a classic Western. In the 1960 film "The Magnificent Seven," seven hired American gunmen undertake to go to Mexico to protect a village terrorized by a gang of bandits. The task turns out to be tougher than they thought. The gunmen talk about what to do and about whether it would be wrong to take a contract to protect the villagers and then leave the helpless to their fate. The most mercenary of the gunmen urges the others to give up in the face of the long odds against them. The character says "There comes a time to turn Mother's picture to the wall and get out!"

And that's what I think the feds are going to do. Despite all the evidence against Kohring and Kott--including iconic video footage of Kohring taking cash from convicted briber Bill Allen--the prosecution is going to turn Mother's picture to the wall and dismiss the cases against the two former legislators. This decision would leave Kohring and Kott disgraced but no longer felons.

The feds have all kinds of reasons to make this decision, which are similar to the factors identified by NPR's Nina Totenberg as influencing the Attorney General's choice to drop the case against U.S. Ted Stevens in 2009:

1. Shut the door on the ugly. Re-trying Kohring and Kott would create two more forums for dragging out unfortunate facts about the investigation and prosecution of the cases arising out of the "POLAR PEN" federal probe into public corruption in Alaska.

2. Kohring and Kott have already been penalized. The two former legislators have already served months in prison before being released in the wake of disclosures of the prosecution's failures to provide evidence to the defense lawyers before trial.

3. These two are already out of public office, and it's unlikely that they would ever be elected again to any public office.

4. It's a teachable moment. Some Alaskans might be unhappy with a decision to drop the cases against Kohring and Kott now. The Department of Justice, however, might be more inclined to send a message to federal prosecutors to avoid the kinds of failures to disclose evidence that got their heads handed to them in the cases of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, Kohring, and Kott and apparently contributed to the feds' embarrassing retreat in the case of former State Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau). The feds might also think--like the most mercenary gunman in the movie said about the village the Americans came to help--that Alaska will be "no worse off than it was before we came." In fact, Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C. might be thinking "We came to Alaska. We did a lot to clean it up. Now's the time to cut our losses and depart."

So that's my prediction: The Department of Justice will not re-try Kohring and Kott, and will instead arrange to drop the cases against them.

Then again, this comes from the same blogger who told you that Ted Stevens would never testify in his own defense at his trial.

(Thanks to Mark Regan for sharpening my thinking on this post.)

(This post has been improved with more links and better formatting since its original posting earlier this evening.)

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