Former Alaska lawmaker pleads guilty under deal

AP News
Posted: Mar 14, 2011 7:23 PM
Former Alaska lawmaker pleads guilty under deal

A former Alaska lawmaker pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor state count of letting unregistered lobbyists peddle their ideas to him.

Bruce Weyhrauch's plea came under terms of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to drop a federal corruption case against him. State Judge Keith Levy accepted the agreement and plea during a brief arraignment Monday.

Weyhrauch faces up to one year in prison or a $1,000 fine. Sentencing was set for Tuesday.

Attorneys in the case declined comment after the hearing. Weyhrauch rushed out of the courthouse.

Weyhrauch was among a group of Alaska lawmakers caught up in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that also ensnared U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who was killed last year in a plane crash. Stevens was convicted on counts of lying on financial disclosure forms about gifts, a result that ended his political career. But a federal judge later threw out the matter, finding prosecutors had withheld evidence at trial.

Last week, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed the conviction of former state lawmaker Victor Kohring and ordered a new trial, concluding prosecutors in that case had withheld information that could have been favorable to Kohring.

Another former legislator, Pete Kott, who was indicted along with Weyhrauch, is also seeking a new trial or dismissal of charges, claiming evidence was withheld. His case is pending.

Weyhrauch's federal trial had been set to begin in May.

A key figure in all these cases was Bill Allen, a former oil services company chief and key witness in the cases against Stevens, Kohring and Kott.

Federal prosecutors alleged that during the 2006 legislative session, when VECO Corp. was lobbying the Legislature on oil taxes, Weyhrauch was seeking legal work from the company. Allen was VECO's chief executive.

The criminal information filed in the state case alleges Weyhrauch let two individuals lobby him, though they were not registered to do so and there was a "substantial probability" that Weyhrauch knew this. Court records identify the two as Allen and Richard Smith, who also was a VECO executive.

The formal charge against Weyhrauch is participating in, aiding or abetting a person who is lobbying but not registered to do so.