Politics & Government

Ex-Alaska House speaker Kott had fair trial, federal judge rules

A federal judge ruled late Wednesday that former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott received a fair trial in 2007 on corruption charges and that the "court has not found a sufficient basis" to order a new trial or dismiss the case.

Kott is trying to get his conviction thrown out on the grounds that prosecutors failed to turn over critical information to the defense before the trial -- the same basis upon which another federal judge threw out the case against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

A federal jury found Kott guilty of conspiracy, extortion and bribery in a trial that relied heavily on secretly recorded conversations. He was sentenced to six years in federal prison and had served about a year and half of that when he was freed while questions over whether he received a fair trial are sorted out.

Until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers the matter, Kott will continue to remain out of prison, under Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

Sedwick agreed with the defense that prosecutors did in fact wrongly withhold evidence that Kott should have received. But, he said in the 20-page order, the mistakes likely would not have changed the trial's outcome in light of what he at one point called "very damning evidence from the audio/video recordings." Sedwick presided over Kott's trial.

The order still is a setback to Kott's effort to throw out the corruption case -- a case that grew out of maneuvering around oil tax legislation in 2006. Unlike in the Stevens case, prosecutors have argued that Kott's conviction should stand.

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