It's starting to look that way after news came yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking that two former Alaska state legislators be released from prison because of prosecutorial misconduct in their cases. Victor Kohring and Peter Kott, both Republicans, were convicted in the same corruption investigation that netted former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AL).
The Obama Justice Department already has dismissed cases or appeals against Stevens and alleged Republican phone jammer James Tobin. Kohring and Kott make four Republicans who have received favorable treatment since Obama took office in January. Meanwhile, Democrats such as Don Siegelman in Alabama and Paul Minor in Mississippi have received no known reviews of their cases.
Holder said Kohring and Kott should be set free because prosecutors failed to turn over favorable information to the defense, the same grounds upon which the DOJ asked for dismissal of charges against Stevens. In the Kohring and Kott cases, the DOJ is asking that they be set free and their cases sent to U.S. District Court in Anchorage for reconsideration. Legal experts say they could receive new trials or their cases could be dismissed.
Kohring and Kott were convicted with the help of videotaped recordings by the FBI. Here's how the Anchorage Daily News described the evidence against them:
The videos, secretly taken from a lamp in a Juneau hotel suite in 2006, captured Kott and Kohring talking oil-tax strategy with officials from the now defunct oil-field service company Veco Inc. The government presented evidence that those officials, chief executive Bill Allen and vice president Rick Smith, also made illegal payments to Kott and Kohring. Allen and Smith have pleaded guilty to bribery and are awaiting sentencing.
Even Alaska Republicans were stunned by the latest turn of events:
"Wow, wow, wow," said Sen. Fred Dyson, the Eagle River Republican who helped the FBI in its investigation. "I'm surprised, to say the least. I sat all the way through the Kott trial and watched the video," said Dyson, referring to secretly made recordings by the FBI.
A defense lawyer was so shocked that he couldn't help but make a joke about the Holder request:
The move by the Obama administration's reconstituted Justice Department "is enough to make Vic Kohring become a Democrat," lawyer John Henry Browne joked about his arch-conservative client.
Even Alaska's most famous Republican, Gov. Sarah Palin, seemed to be in a state of disbelief. In an e-mail statement, she said:
"Until I get more information on this newest twist, I can't comment beyond saying I am wildly curious what went on in DOJ back then, and what is going on in DOJ now that's resulted in these stunning turn of events. I agree with the attorney general that the Department of Justice should be about justice, not just about winning cases but I will withhold further comment until we see how this plays out."