Friday, September 30, 2011

Judge Orders Curative Instruction and Special Verdict Form in Kohring Trial to Address Duplicity Issue in Bribery Charge


To remedy a problem with charging too much bribery in one count of an indictment, the court has ordered that the jury in the Vic Kohring re-trial get a curative instruction and a special verdict form to insure that any conviction reflects unanimous jury agreement on what act constituted a bribe.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline quoted the government's characterization that the court had decided that the indictment charges five bribes involving the former Wasilla Republican legislator and VECO executives. The government has described those five alleged bribes as:

1. the acceptance of approximately $1,000 in cash on February 23, 2006 ("the Island Pub incident")

2. the solicitation and securing of a job for Kohring's nephew beginning in February, 2006

3. the acceptance of cash payments on March 30, 2006 ("the Easter egg and Girl Scout uniform incident"

4. the solicitation of $17,000 on March 30, 2006 ("the credit card incident")


5. the acceptance of between $500 and $1,000 on June 8, 2006 ("the McDonald's incident").

For a variety of reasons--including the unfairness and uncertainty involved in not knowing exactly what conduct the jury would be convicting on--the defense asked the court either to dismiss the bribery count or force the government to choose in advance which conduct it would be relying on in seeking a conviction for bribery in the re-trial.

The government countered by requesting that the court issue a special jury instruction ordering the jury to agree on what act of bribery it was convicting on as well as a special verdict form in which the jury would specifically identify that conduct.

The court sided with the prosecution, ordering a special jury instruction and a special verdict form. Citing "expediency" and "public accountability," the court rejected the defense's requests for either dismissal of the bribery count or an order requiring that the prosecution elect in advance which of the five acts it was relying on. The court announced that the special instruction "would allow the jury to try Kohring on all the acts of alleged bribery" and that the special verdict form "would forestall any possible double jeopardy or unanimity problems."

This is a significant victory for the prosecution if there is a re-trial. The government lawyers will get to present to the jury what they have called "the full range of Kohring's corrupt conduct."

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