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Former Alaska lawmakers plead guilty in bribery cases

October 21, 2011 |  5:10 pm

Alaska's former House speaker, Peter Kott, pleaded guilty to a felony bribery count Friday in the conclusion to the long-running political corruption investigation that has seen six state legislators convicted and helped unseat former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Kott, 62, admitted taking $7,900 disguised as payment for contracting work and $1,000 in cash along with the promise of a future job from oil services company Veco Corp. in exchange for helping push through new oil tax legislation that would have opened the door to construction of a multibillion-dollar gas pipeline in Alaska.

Victor Kohring, 53, another former Alaska legislator from Wasilla, pleaded guilty Friday to bribery conspiracy for his own relationship with Veco and its two top executives, CEO Bill Allen and Vice President Rick Smith, who have already been sentenced in the case.

"In my heart, I thought that my actions in the Legislature were for the best interests of the people of the state of Alaska. I understand that my actions and words off the floor of the Legislature were perhaps wrong," Kott told the court. "I hope that my behavior in this incident does not completely erase all the good things that I've done for a number of years."

Neither man will serve more jail time; U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced the former legislators to the time they already served -- in Kott's case, 17 months; in Kohring's, 12 months -- before their previous convictions in the case were reversed by a federal appeals court and sent back for new trials. Both men elected to plead guilty instead.

The case had been marred by findings of misconduct on the part of Justice Department prosecutors, who were accused by the defense of withholding important evidence that raised questions about the defendants' culpability and Allen's reliability as a witness.

In the case of Stevens, prosecutors voluntarily withdrew the charges against him after he had been found guilty of making false statements about gifts he had received from Allen -- but not before he lost his Senate reelection bid in 2008. Stevens was killed in a plane crash in Alaska in 2010.

Two investigations into the conduct of prosecutors and their supervisors from the Justice Department, along with the lead FBI agent in the case, still are pending in Washington.

-- Kim Murphy in Anchorage

Photo: In this Sept. 25, 2007, photo, Peter Kott, center, walks from the federal court building in Anchorage, Alaska after one of the hearings in his case with his daughter, Pam Kott, left, Debora Stovern, right, and Kott's former attorney, Jim Wendt. Credit: Al Grillo/Associated Press