A federal appeals court Thursday ordered a new trial for former House Speaker Pete Kott, ruling that his 2007 conviction on corruption charges was tainted by the failure of federal prosecutors to turn over information he could have used to defend himself.
The Kott decision had been expected since a similar ruling two weeks ago by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that ordered a new trial for former Rep. Vic Kohring.
Both decisions were based on new information turned over by prosecutors about the Justice Department's key witness in its investigation, Bill Allen, the former chief executive of the defunct oil field service company Veco Corp. In 2006, the FBI captured Allen on secretly recorded telephone calls and videotape in a bribery conspiracy to promote reduced oil taxes. Confronted that year with the evidence against him, he agreed to work with the FBI and plead guilty to bribery and tax charges.
The information about Allen, known to prosecutors all along but revealed to the defense long after the Kott and Kohring trials, concerned sex-crime allegations involving Allen and juveniles. The FBI also had evidence that Allen tried to get at least one of the victims to perjure herself by falsely swearing she didn't have sex with him when she was 15.
Prosecutors also failed to turn over reports that Allen had told different stories to agents at different times about his payments to Kott, the 9th Circuit judges said.
The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, Betty Fletcher, Wallace Tashima and Sidney Thomas.
As with Kohring, they were unanimous in saying the original trial was tainted. And similarly, Fletcher dissented on the remedy. She said both cases should be thrown out completely because of the "lack of contrition" by government prosecutors and their attempts to "minimize the extent and seriousness" of the misconduct.
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