Kott pleads guilty; sentenced to time served

Former legislator admits wrongdoing; judge cites need for "finality" in sentence


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Disgraced former House speaker Pete Kott of Eagle River pled guilty to one count of bribery in federal court today and was sentenced to time already served — about 17 months — and a $10,000 fine.

Kott's plea was part of a deal his lawyer struck with federal prosecutors in the case, who had been seeking a new trial on three counts of bribery related to Kott's dealings with former VECO Inc. head Bill Allen and vice president Rick Smith. Kott was convicted on three counts of bribery in 2007, but those convictions were thrown out after Kott spent 17 months in prison when it was revealed federal prosecutors had withheld evidence that could have helped Kott challenge Allen's credibility.

In accepting the plea deal, Judge Ralph Beistline said it was time for everyone involved in the case to move forward.

"I think we need finality," Beistline said.

Kott spoke several times during the hearing, mostly to answer Beistline's questions about whether he understood the plea deal and its ramifications. When he did address the court, Kott — who runs a flooring business with his son — said he hopes he can return to a somewhat normal life.

"I want to close that chapter of my life and be a contributing member of society again," Kott said.

Kott, 62, said he hopes to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

"When you reach my age, priorities change," he said.

Beistline also sentenced Kott's former collegue, Vic Koehring, to time served in a related corruption case involving the legislators' dealings with VECO while negotiating an oil tax structure during the 24th Legislature.

In his comments to Kott, Beistline said the political "shenanigans" going on in the legislature that Kott and Koehring were a part of was "truly a dark moment in the state's political history."

Beistline took Kott to task for the former house speaker's decision to put the needs of VECO and himself over those of his voters.

The judge told Kott that the Eagle River Republican had "sold his soul," when Kott decided to take more than $10,000 in bribes to ensure that the state's oil taxes favored oil producers as much as possible.

Beistline said Kott decided not to work for his constituents, but instead "for Bill Allen, Rick Smith and VECO. And, of course, yourself."

In addition to the time he's already served in federal prision, Kott must also pay a $10,000 fine and spend three years on supervised federal release. He must also be on a curfew for one year, the hours of which will be determined by his probation officer.

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