Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In Defense of Steve Aufrecht's Humanity

Philip Munger: I've posted an essay about the the talk radio conversations today in Anchorage about Kohring trial blogs at my new site.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What Next?

With the conviction of Vic Kohring in Anchorage Federal court last Thursday, speculation about new indictments ratcheted back up to pre-Kohring trial levels. Pete Weyrauch's trial date hasn't been set yet, but will probably be sometime in late Spring, 2008.

Ex-Veco top executives and top GOP pump primers, Bill Allen and Rick Smith
have testified they pled guilty to bribing State Senator John Cowdery, former State Senator Ben Stevens, and - it appears - U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. The Ben Stevens and John Cowdery indictments are probably due any day now.

A name which kept coming up in the Kohring trial was that of Frank Murkowski's ex-Chief of Staff, Jim Clark. This appears to be chiefly due to Clark's role as liaison between Veco, the major producers, and the administration of ex-Governor Frank Murkowski, during the 2006 special sessions of the Alaska Legislature. And Murkowski himself has been suggested as a possible target of the next layer of indictments.

Anecdotes about Vic Kohring as mooch keep on surfacing. Michael Carey's video summation of his trial impressions is available at the Anchorage Daily News web site's video niche. I'll be on Steve Heimel's Talk of Alaska program Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., with Steve Aufrecht, talking about aspects of the trial's coverage.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fred puts down some more thoughts on the verdict

Fred James: Aloha! I’m STILL in Anchorage trying to get out on Delta. I’ve tried twice but both times the plane was filled to the brim. In the meantime:

The question “Why did that jury convict Big Innocent Vic of three of the four charges? This iniquity has been warping around my tiny brain ever since I heard the court clerk read out the verdict.

Last night I tossed and turned thinking many thoughts. Certainly, like any HUMAN enterprise, there were probably many reasons they capitulated to the State.
Here are a few:

a) The jury lived in Alaska like everyone else for 14 months absorbing the Anchorage Daily New’s downright evil reportage on Vic, day after day repeating the supposed felonies he was alleged to have done. Channel Two in Anchorage was probably worse because moving images are much more dramatic.

b) The anti-government climate (Which on the whole is a good thing!) was exasperated by a flurry of corrupt politicians being caught in this giant FBI sting and FOUND GUILTY. Vic was lumped into this mess.

c) The government lawyers exaggerated and spoke about allegations as facts over and over despite John Henry Browne’s careful questions that demolished important aspects of most of them. e.g., getting BOTH Smith and Allen to admit that there was No loan, No job, No truck and that Rick Smith had come up with the idea of giving a job to Vic’s nephew, NOT VIC!!

d) The judge DENIED the defense motion for change of venue so that Vic’s jury would be RELATIVELY unbiased.

e) We could have pulled out twelve years of Vic’s public writings that were published in many of the major newspapers in Alaska. We could have shown that he believes in private enterprise and would VOTE for private enterprise...ALL private enterprises and AGAINST taxation. Then we could have matched his voting record against what he wrote! It would be IDENTICAL!!!!!

f) The judge also DENIED JHB’s major tool to show the government’s basic thrust in this farce was totally wrong. What was that? The government had a video of Vic talking to Bill Allen in a hotel in Juneau. At this time Allen gave Vic some money which Allen ADMITED under cross to be a present for Vic’s daughter which is EXACTLY WHAT VIC HAD MAINTAINED FROM THE START. The grainy black & white video was widely condemned as PROOF Vic was on the take. Vic told him at the time politely: “Thank you. If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.” THAT line the government was convinced was proof Vic was VECO”S bought and paid for tool. Also the government came up with the fact that Vic was friendly with and voted for most VECO desired bills.

JHB was not ALLOWED by the judge to counter this with all important testimony. Let’s suppose for a minute that the judge had said, “Sure bring on as many witnesses as you like to make your point.” We had a list of over 30 people who were willing to testify that Vic’s mantra, a statement he said to everyone was, and had been for over twelve years, “Thank you. If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.” Vic had said this line in his radio ads, his print ads, his newsletters and to many, many people over the years. In fact he not only SAID this line frequently we could have proved he said it SINCERELY, followed by deeds. I had a man ready to tell the tale of how he was doing some plaster work in his home when Vic turned up in a shirt and tie at his door campaigning. Here’s my friend, all covered with plaster and paint, a tool belt on, opening the door to a 6’7” giant stranger looking down on him. Vic went through his pitch about free markets, less government and no new taxes and finished with his almost patented line about offering help. Then Vic said “I know a lot about this kind of work. Can I help you?” He then took off his coat and spent two hours helping my friend finish the interior work. My friend was absolutely astounded. He had found an honest politician who did what he promised! He told me he would vote for him and then did, over and over again.

Now this kind of story is no exception. When calling down that list of Vic supporters I bumped into human after human who had identical or like stories about Vic. How he always finished most conversations with is his line, “Thank you. If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.”

We could have waltzed in at least 30 witnesses to say these things most sincerely. We hoped to the point where the government would have stipulated that this was indeed his constant line and followed through with it. It would also have placed the image of Vic into the jury’s minds as one whale of a nice human being.

Then we could have brought in government records of his voting statistics. They would prove that he consistently voted AGAINST any new taxes and favored ALL PRIVATE enterprise, not Big Oil alone. We would have paraded in man after man who would have said more or less, “I called up Vic who took the time to understand my small private business’s problems with government and he offered to help me any way he could, just like his line in his ads. Then he followed through and GAVE ME THE HELP. Then Leza who had flown up here to Anchorage at her own expense to testify would have said something like: “I worked for him one session in Juneau. He helped EVERYONE, Even people OUTSIDE his district because he regarded his role of lawmaker more as ombudsman that creator of new taxes and bureaucracies. She could have told the jury, “I saw him with my own eyes, time after time say goodbye to people with his “I’ll help you as much as I can.” line. I witnessed this too.

Now suppose we could have been ALLOWED to demonstrate this realty to the jury. Then they would have had the KNOWLEDGE that Vic’s line to VECO head Bill Allen in that video was once again the same line he gave everyone. AND THAT VECO WAS JUST ONE OF MANY PEOPLE IN BUSIINESS HE SAID THAT TOO.....AND MEANT!!!! We could have demonstrated this easily with MANY, many witnesses.

Then the jury would have debated the alleged offenses in a far different light!
But JHB, though no fault of his own, was denied this by one Judge John Sedwick.

These are the reasons Vic was found guilty of three of the four counts. I think he did make a mistake; he foolishly allowed thug Bill Allen to convince him he was an actual friend and that the gifts he gave him were sincere. Since the government showed no direct, hard evidence that VIC ACTUALLY DID anything in return for that gift, all we have is the word of a Bill Allen.

The substance of my criticism is that the jury was not allowed the FULL CONTEXT of the situation. Suppose for example that you were a person on a jury. You are on a murder case. The prosecution has several witnesses who say they saw the defendant pull out a pistol and shoot the deceased twice in the chest, “cool and easy as if he were taking a cold drink of lemonade on a warm sunny day.” You learn that the defendant did not even know the murdered guy. The defendant admits to shooting the man. The government suggests that the defendant is a hit man. The defense lawyer asks for permission to put on witnesses and is denied.

You vote guilty. Only later do you read on blogs that the defendant was an Army trained marksman, that he was in a crime infested area of a large city when his car broke down and the deceased was coming at him with a very large knife with a crazed look and scream. All the defendant did was draw his .45 and ably defend himself and his wife and two kids in the car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh Oh! Too late! The government has already put him to death!

I believe Vic has ample grounds for a serious appeal. I have just given you SOME of them. I hope he will.

Aloha Nui Loa

IL Fettucinni

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Week Two - Day Four - Fred talks about Vic's options

Fred James: It is the evening of November 1, hours after Vic was found guilty on three of the four counts. The good news is that the one count he was found not guilty on was the most grievous of the four counts. And there are a number of good reasons for a solid appeal. Whether or not Vic decides to make an appeal will be done in about three months, after the sentencing which is scheduled for early February next.

The grounds for appeal might be the fact that the local media inundated Alaskans with highly negative publicity almost on a daily basis for the last ten months, putting Vic’s picture on the cover of the ADN or at the Start of the TV news, constantly , repeating the words, “raid, corruption, guilty, money changing hands” etc. which tended to bias the jury pool, the refusal by the judge to allow the trial to be conducted elsewhere, the fact that 20 potential testimonies by local people including Leza and myself were denied by the judge. We could have shown that Vic was constantly using the phrase “If there is anything you need, please feel free to call me for help.” a phrase which the government lawyers twisted to mean, “I’ll be happy to do your bidding oh corrupt VECO Crooks if you pay me money”. And a particularly open ended FBI video where Bill Allen, the head crook of VECO handed Vic some money. How much money was never established because it could have been five dollars or five million. Bill Allen SAID it was so and so amount and the government kept repeating that as if it were true.

As Vic Faced the jury this afternoon he began to hear the three guilty verdicts and one not guilty, he kept his composure and bravely kept up his head. The judge asked the government attorneys if Vic should be allowed to stay on his present free status until the sentencing in early February, they quickly agreed as they saw no flight risk.. So that was ordered. Vic can mump about without electronic monitoring or checking in ever morning or any of that nonsense. As one blogger put it, “They missed the sharks in this scandal, and caught a minnow.”

I believe there is a very healthy anti-government, anti-politician attitude in the public right now which is one reason Ron Paul is gaining so much ground. But the other side of this is that the one politician who IS NOT a statist Vahrule, the one pol who has an almost pure libertarian political philosophy and who is not afraid to write about it in his opinion pieces, a large, tall target named Vic has been drawn down with the ACTUAL corrupt politicians as if he were one of them.

Recently two politicians were found guilty of corruption along with the “VECO Crooks.” I believe this jury simply lumped Vic in with the others. After all how do you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving. I have always felt this way about Rulers. I have always agreed with the great American political philosopher Woody Allen. Allen told his audience once, “Everyone knows that politicians are one rung lower than child molesters.” Vic has been lumped in.

In movies and TV shows (including Boston Legal) when the accused is about to find out the verdict he usually is required to stand and his lawyer with him. But in this federal courtroom, the judge received the written verdict and handed it directly to his court clerk who promptly read it! No one stood. But if Vic and his lawyer had been required to stand, I who sat directly behind them for almost two full weeks would have stood too. And if the judge had told me I did not have to stand, (Like Spock in Star Trek) I would have said in a loud voice, “Sir, I stand with my friend.”

A friend called me on the phone tonight, a man who I used to go shooting with occasionally in Alaska in the last 25 years. He told me most sincerely, “After watching that debacle for the last two weeks it turned me into a total libertarian.”

Oddly, except for denying the change of venue motion and several small items, Judge John Sedwick was the first judge in a criminal court I’ve ever seen who seemed to be really attempting to conduct a fair trial!

Vic is down but not out. I saw a number of news photographers tell him to keep up the fight. Last week I observed at least one reporter attempt to twist virtually everything Vic said. I read one blogger who admitted Vic was truly a polite, friendly man but then went on to write that this manner HAD TO BE A CON! I’ve known the man since 1992 and KNOW he’s exactly the polite, gentle giant that his attorney once called him.

I saw one person in this charade say one thing on the radio and then literally lie to Vic’s face the next day by telling Vic the opposite. I observed government attorneys speak over and over to the jury about specific sums of money that Bill Allen, the crooked center of all this mess, merely TOLD the government he gave to Vic. They spoke as if it were proven fact. So allegations became fact, rumor became truth. Black is white and Big Brother wins another.

George Orwell is laughing in his grave as the state rules.

Aloha Nui Loa,

IL Fettucinni

Week Two - Day Four - Verdict!

Philip Munger: At about 1:30 this afternoon the jury in the Vic Kohring GOP Alaska legislative corruption trial returned verdicts on all four counts. Kohring was found not guilty on the most serious charge of corruption. The charges of bribery, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion went the other way. I was unable to be at the Federal Courthouse at all this afternoon because of work. I didn't think the jury would reach a verdict until tomorrow, but I did predict the results fairly closely in my earlier post today.

I called Fred James a few minutes ago. He intends to catch up after he gets back home in Bellingham, Washington tomorrow morning. I've got to get ready for a concert I'm in at Dimond High School this evening, and practice my tuba, so I'll be catching up on this more tomorrow.

Week Two - Day Four - Thoughts...

Philip Munger: I got together with Fred James to create this blog as a unique way to approach the new communication frontier of trial blogging. I had hoped we would be able to do something more akin to the live blogging, pioneered by firedoglake during the Irving Libby trials last spring. That didn't happen. But this experience has been worthwhile.

I'm hoping to widen the discussions carried here before Fred and I move on. One area of interest to me is why all this happened to Vic Kohring, Pete Kott, Bruce Weyrauch, Tim Anderson, Bill Allen and Rick Smith. The votes were for sale because lobbyists have such heavy influence in so many aspects of political life, especially on the state and national levels. I'm a champion of voter reform, so I'm hoping to bring interviews with people involved in attempting to clean up our state elections into a couple posts here, possibly early this coming week.

Week Two - Day Four - Waiting on the Jury...

Philip Munger: Today will be the first full day of jury deliberation. I'm finally going to make a mild prediction - a mixed verdict tomorrow afternoon. They'll be hung on the most serious charge of bribery, and convict on the other three.

Meanwhile, wacky comments interspersed with contemplation and a bit of sanity at the ADN article on yesterday's summations:

The Only Honest Politician Destroyed
Vic Kohring is the only fully honest politician I have met, but his very lack of guile and simple, trusting character has made him an easy mark for unscrupulous thugs -- on both sides of the law.

no real proof....
I dont see any real proof of bribes. I see a man asking someone for a loan, but not a bribe. Who says that you should ask family before anyone else for a loan? In the recording I saw and is on this ADN site, Allen clearly states/asks.....is this a loan? Vic answers "yes"......

honestly dumb
Kohring knew he wasn't supposed to be taking money--even for gifts for his child. But that's all crap anyway. How many times have you had someone offer you hundreds for an easter egg hunt. Honest to goodness if this jury comes out with a not guilty verdict I'm going to be sick.

Steve Aufrecht will be part of the panel meeting today at noon at the Federal Building Cafeteria (far end - a sort of solarium room - about journalism and the ongoing political corruption trials. I can't be there, as I'm teaching at UAA at that hour. Steve's most recent post talks about Eric Musser, the Kohring aide Allen wanted disposed of for being an honest whistleblower.

And - I've been waiting for further verification on this before I posted my own comment. Toward the end of closing arguments, the courtroom must have been as full as it gets - SRO. Standing quite close to the exit door was wingnut talk radio host and big oil apologist, Dan Fagan. Seeing him reminded me that the last time I called his show was to correct him as he he was slandering Vic Kohring's wife, Tatiana, on his show. He was spewing a line about mail order brides from Russia, and saying that Kohring had brought her back from Russia because of, of what? Fagan was implying that Kohring must be lacking something sexually to have to go to Russia to find a woman who could love him. This from the most sexually insecure radio personality in the history of Anchorage radio.

I called the show, to explain to Fagan that Kohring met his wife in Anchorage, where - like so many Russians I know - she had come to live because she knew fellow Russians here. When I told Fagan this, he started shouting at me, saying "You're flat-out wrong! That's a lie!" He hung up before I could reply. Well, Dan - you, who left the courthouse before anybody you couldn't hang up on could get close to your unfit, pathetic body - here's my reply - Screw You!