Monday, September 27, 2010

Bruce Weyhrauch Gets Expected Victory on Evidentiary Ruling from the Ninth Circuit


Jill Burke of the Alaska Dispatch has a nice article on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on evidence in the case of former State Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau). It's weighted towards the defense view of things, but the federal government did not respond to her request for comment. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions earlier this year substantially reducing the scope of the federal honest services fraud statute made this ruling a certainty, but it's still a victory for the defense. You can find the article at on the Internet.

Former Federal Prosecutor Nicholas Marsh Commits Suicide


Former federal prosecutor Nicholas Marsh killed himself over the weekend. As an attorney for the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section, Marsh was the senior lawyer on the ground on the federal government's POLAR PEN probe into Alaska public corruption during the period that it was most active. As such, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney played key roles in prosecuting a number of defendants, including then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Disclosure of prosecutorial misconduct after the jury returned guilty verdicts in the Stevens trial led to the dismissal of that case. Those relevations of failures to turn evidence over to the defense triggered investigations of Marsh and other government attorneys involved. The judge in the Stevens trial took the highly unusual step of ordering a probe by outside counsel to determine if the discovery violations in that prosecution should lead to criminal charges.

The Department of Justice has also been conducting an internal investigation into the same issues that has led to the government's acknowledgment of prosecutorial misconduct in two other trials, that of former State Reps. Pete Kott (R.-Eagle River) and Vic Kohring (R.-Wasilla). In another highly unusual series of events, Kott and Kohring have been released from prison while courts sort out whether the discovery violations in those cases should lead to their convictions being overturned.

National Public Radio had this story first, and I thank the eagle-eyed Mark Regan for bringing it to my attention. NPR reports that the court-appointed special counsel's report is expected "in a few weeks," and also states that Marsh's lawyer had said that he had not expected that Marsh would be charged.

This is obviously a horrible event. Speculation about Marsh's motivations seems likely to be rampant and excessive: The NPR story includes the sentence "But apparently the strain of the investigation was just too much." It seems better to end on the note sounded by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer: "Our deepest sympathies go out to Nick's family and friends on this sad day. The Department of Justice is a community, and today our community is mourning the loss of this dedicated young attorney."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Court Puts Jim Clark's Sentencing on Indefinite Hold


U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick issued an order today that is short enough to quote in full:

JWS ORDER as to James Clark; In light of the motion to dismiss at docket [37], as well as the fact that the Weyhrauch trial will not be concluded in the near future, the imposition of sentence set for October 15, 2010, is hereby VACATED. Sentencing will be reset only if, after considering the United States' response the motion to dismiss, the court denies that motion. cc: USM, USPO (RMC, COURT STAFF) (Entered: 09/20/2010)

Clark is the former Chief of Staff to ex-Gov. Frank Murkowski. The reference to "Weyhrauch" is to former State Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau), whose case is the only one arising out of the federal government's POLAR PEN investigation into Alaska public corruption that remains unadjudicated.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jim Clark Asks to Have His Charge Dismissed


Jim Clark's attorney has asked the court to throw out the case against him on the grounds that the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year cutting back on the scope of the honest-services fraud statute means that the former Chief of Staff to Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski no longer faces a valid criminal charge. As Mark Regan and I have discussed, the delays the prosecution has allowed before Clark's sentencing has given Clark the time to make this request. Clark's sentencing is currently set for October 10, and this motion all but guarantees that the sentencing will be again delayed. Clark's request also raises the chances that the sentencing will never occur.

I promise there's more to come. My blogging has been slow lately in part because of the "Cost-Effective Justice" forum set for Saturday, and when that's done I'll be able to focus on producing more posts for you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Cost-Effective Justice" Forum Coming Up September 18 in Anchorage


As I head off to another trip to Prince William Sound, I can offer two things:

1. Assurances that I’m still working to produce more on the Ted Stevens funeral as well as the past and future of Bill Allen’s relationship with the criminal justice system; and

2. An ad for something else I’m working on as a volunteer. Alaska Common Ground and Partners for Progress are holding a forum on “Cost-Effective Justice: New Directions for Prisoner Rehabilitation and Re-entry.” This event is on Saturday, September 18, at the Loussac Library’s Assembly Chambers in Anchorage from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The forum features nationally known experts, including State Rep. Jerry Madden, the Texas legislator who spearheaded efforts to reform corrections in the Lone Star State.

This event is free and open to the public. It costs $45,000 for the State of Alaska to keep someone in prison for a year, and this forum will explore whether there are cheaper and more effective alternatives that could apply to most prisoners. I hope to see you there.