Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day Two - Afternoon - Opening Arguments

Philip Munger: I sandwiched opening arguments between teaching and rehearsing today. Just home, at 10:30 p.m.

Federal Prosecutor Joe Bottini laid out a narrative that included new information about a late evening walk at the end of the first Special Session of the Alaska Legislature last year. According to Bottini, Kohring was the hardest to manage of the people whose "asses" former Veco CEO Bill Allen claimed to own. His descriptions - and Kohring attorney Browne's - reminded me of a statement Anchorage strip mall developer Pete Zamarello made to me almost 30 years ago when he was over for dinner at our condo in Whittier.

Zamarello, after a couple glasses of Heitz Brothers Grignolino, was waxing eloquently about the politicians he then owned. But he was disappointed with the then current results. Plaintively, he cried "Feel (that's how he pronounced my name), Feel, Feel. Politicians! They're all the same. You bribe them and you bribe them and you bribe them, and what? They steel do whatever they want to do."

I couldn't help but laugh as he pronounced "still" as "steal." Pete rarely drank, but I poured him another glass of wine, and he told more stories.

Today, Bottini's story that nobody had yet heard was of a scam Bill Allen and friends cooked up to try to get Vic Kohring to miss a vote. He had to be present in the House chambers for an item Allen wanted killed to pass. So they arranged to meet at McDonalds, talked a bit, and while walking around the glistening streets of Juneau, supposedly killing time and bills, Bill Allen passed Vic a few hundred more bucks.

It was as close to a colorful story as Bottini got to today, but it had no ending. Did Vic get back to the House floor? Did the vote fail, or happen, because of the walk? I guess we have to stay tuned.

The seats were fairly full for the opening. I counted about 50 people, over 20 of whom had scratch pads. Several people down from the Mat-Su Valley. And a couple of prominent attorneys unconnected to the case. Phil Weidner was there, looking more than a little like APRN reporter Steve Heimel's older, unkempt brother. Weidner appeared to be there to catch a glimpse of, and to hear John Henry Browne. Both are legendary defense attorneys. I caught Bottini giving Weidner a very respectful nod as they passed outside the chambers.

But Weidner left in the middle of Browne's presentation. I can't blame him. I've seen Weidner on fire in front of juries as he opened. It isn't that Browne was dispassionate, but he did seem poorly organized, unable to create the narrative Kohring needs.

His main defense isn't novel, either for this case or for this set of cases. Kohring works hard, is nice, returns calls, sleeps on a couch, and lives in a mobile home behind his parents' house. He didn't actually do anything as important for Allen for the money he was given as other, more important or more acquiescent politicians like - a long list of names here - did.

And the money wasn't used on table dances at the Bush Company. It bought Easter eggs - or filled them with $100 dollar bills - for his Russian stepdaughter.

And the Bill Allen as person desperate to say anything as a compromised Mountainview crack dealer meme was thrown out there. Once again. You don't have to look far recently to hear that one being repeated again and again as one of the new GOP talking points. Quite often by people like Dan Fagan, who would have drunk a gallon of Bill Allen's pee 16 months ago if so ordered.

As an example, a recent Ketchikan Daily News editorial stated:

Is it possible that the VECO boys who plea bargained with federal prosecutors simply are trying to save themselves and their families? Does the evidence of their confessions and convictions show that they aren't the most trustworthy witnesses? Isn't it important to consider the integrity and the character of an accuser in an investigation?

Browne took this no further today than a small paper in Southeast Alaska recently did. He'll have to develop this theme like a virtuoso to help his client.

Oh, yeah. Sen. Lyda Green will not be happy with this trial.

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