Friday, January 28, 2011

Bill Weimar Wanted on Florida Child Sexual Battery Warrant

Anchorage--

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting tonight that Bill Weimar is being sought on a Florida warrant for child sexual battery against a victim alleged to be under 12 years old. Weimar was convicted in 2008 and served time as one of the defendants in the federal investigation into Alaska public corruption, but he appears to be facing much bigger problems now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Watchdog Group Seeks Files on Probe into Don Young, and One of Young's Former Aides Goes on Trial in Corruption Case

Anchorage--


A Washington, D.C-based ethics watchdog organization has asked the Department of Justice to hand over its files in at least two closed federal investigations into corruption allegations against U.S. Rep. Don Young, R.-Alaska, reports the Anchorage Daily News.


Rich Mauer's article says that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has sent a letter asking the government to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act. His story notes that Young faced a probe regarding alleged illegal contributions and gifts from the former oil patch giant VECO and its long-time CEO (and current inmate) Bill Allen as well as an investigation into the Congressman for all Alaska's role in the "Coconut Road" earmark for a Florida interchange project benefiting a developer who had donated to his campaign.


After the federal government had investigated him for at least four years, Young announced in August that the Justice Department had advised his attorneys that it was ending the probes and that he would not be indicted.


CREW acknowledged that the Justice Department will likely claim that FOIA exempts the government's investigation files from disclosure, and the group that Mauer describes as "a liberal-leaning non-profit" has said it will sue if the feds don't let go of the files. In addition to Young's files, CREW is also asking for the release of investigative files regarding other probes into alleged corruption involving Congress.


In other news related to Don Young's service on Capitol Hill, a jury has heard opening statements in a corruption-related trial of a former aide to Alaska's sole Member of the House.


You can read the Associated Press story at the Website of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. (A shorter version is on the Website of the Anchorage Daily News.)


Get past the "high life" details about Fraser Verrusio's trip to a 2003 World Series game involving a chauffeured Cadillac, dinner at a steakhouse, and a strip joint called "Privilege." The best tidbits come at the end of the AP story, and they have to do with the federal investigation into Young himself.


Verrusio's defense attorney told the jury yesterday that the former policy director for Young at the House Transportation Committee thought FBI agents who came to his house two years ago regarding what he's now charged with were there for another purpose: Verrusio thought they wanted to talk to him about what Verrusio knew about Young's connections to Allen. The defense lawyer said that when the agents arrived in December of 2008, Verrusio had been "meeting with an agent for over a year to provide background information on his boss but rejected persistent requests to wear a wire and secretly record their conversations."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How a Broader Interpretation of the "Speech or Debate" Clause Helped Don Young Escape Prosecution on "Coconut Road"

Anchorage--


The Washington Post has an article saying that the Department of Justice's concerns over the newly broad interpretation of the "speech or debate" clause in the U.S. Constitution has led to the spiking of a number of investigations of Members of Congress, including one involving U.S. Rep. Don Young (R.-Alaska). Young was being probed for his role in the change of language in a bill passed by Congress that benefited a highway project in Florida backed by one of his campaign contributors. According to the article, that investigation was dropped along with others involving Members of Congress out of a fear of violating the constitutional provision shielding the work of legislators from interference from the executive branch.


Concerns over the "speech or debate" clause may also have contributed to federal prosecutors' decisions in the Ted Stevens trial to limit the evidence the government introduced regarding the amount of legislative assistance the Senator had given Bill Allen and VECO, the multinational oil-services corporation he ran for decades. The Los Angeles Times, for example, alleged much juicier help regarding the Pakistani government's payment for a $70 million pipeline than anything the prosecution brought up as assistance for VECO in Congress provided by Ted Stevens.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ted Stevens Case and the Death of Nicholas Marsh: A Belated Link to the New Yorker Article

Seattle--

I'm back in the country and can now belatedly direct you to Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker article on the relationship between the Ted Stevens case, the investigation of the Senator's prosecutors, and the suicide of Nicholas Marsh, one of those prosecutors. I'm still travelling and will comment later on Toobin's conclusions.

The press release from the New Yorker announcing the piece is below. At the bottom is a link to the article itself, which is behind a paywall.

The Justice Department Clearly Wronged Senator Ted Stevens. Did It Also Wrong One of His Prosecutors?

In the January 3, 2011, issue of The New Yorker, in “Casualties of Justice” (p. 38), Jeffrey Toobin looks at the trial of Senator Ted Stevens and the subsequent suicide of Nicholas Marsh, who was one of the prosecutors on the case. Stevens was serving his sixth full term in Alaska when, in 2008, he was indicted on charges of failing to report gifts. Marsh, who was a relatively junior lawyer in the Justice Department and was working out of the √©lite Public Integrity Section, “built the case against Stevens, and, working with F.B.I. agents and local prosecutors, co√∂rdinated a massive investigation of corruption in the state’s politics,” Toobin writes. In many respects, “Marsh’s most important task was negotiating a deal with Bill Allen, whose bribes fuelled so much corruption in the state.” Allen, who was the chief executive of a major oil-services firm, pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of bribery and conspiracy stemming from his dealings with four state legislators, and was going to be the key witness against Stevens. His firm, Veco, provided the “things of value” that Stevens failed to disclose. Initially, owing in large part to Allen’s testimony, Stevens was convicted on all counts, but “Marsh and his colleagues did not have long to enjoy their triumph.” Allegations that the prosecutors failed to disclose critical exculpatory evidence to the defense—a fundamental breach of prosecutorial ethics—surfaced, and the judge was “outraged,” Toobin writes. “The prosecution was a shambles, and Stevens hadn’t even been sentenced yet. Superiors in the Justice Department decided to bring in a whole new team to try to salvage the conviction. After four years of work, Marsh had been thrown off the case of his life.” The next month, the new prosecutorial team found something that had not been disclosed before: an undocumented interview with Bill Allen that shed serious doubts on what had been the most important evidence in the trial. Soon afterward, the case against Stevens was dropped, and the judge excoriated Marsh and his colleagues. “In nearly twenty-five years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I’ve seen in this case,” the judge said. Marsh found himself the subject of a criminal inquiry rather than the leader of one. Toobin writes, “Marsh had to start answering questions he was used to asking: What did he know, and when did he know it? This was difficult—practically and psychologically.” The inquiry dragged on for months, and “Nick was very frustrated by the pace of the investigation,” Marsh’s friend Josh Waxman tells Toobin. “Someone like him, who had done everything on the straight and narrow, ethical to a T—to have to wait and sit back to hope that his name would be cleared, that really wore on him.” After a full year went by without results of the investigations, Marsh’s “impatience gave way to despair,” Toobin writes. He committed suicide on September 26th, at the age of thirty-seven. Navis Bermudez, Marsh’s wife, tells Toobin, “I don’t think I understood the depths of how the allegations affected him. . . . Even thinking that his career would be over was just too much for him. The idea that someone thought he did something wrong was just too much to bear.” Please see this link: http://nyr.kr/fnAf3D