Lawyer cheers limits on federal fraud law

    Says ruling will help him defend 2 Pennsylvania lawmakers

    A lawyer representing two Pennsylvania state lawmakers facing conflict-of-interest charges says he’s heartened by Thursday’s
    U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowing the scope of a federal corruption law.

    The high court ruled that a federal “honest services” law can only be applied when officials are receiving bribes or kickbacks.

    Attorney Bill Costopoulos says the ruling will help him challenge the charges Rep. Bill DeWeese and Sen. Jane Orie are facing for allegedly using state resources to conduct campaign work.

    Costopoulos has filed motions questioning the constitutionality of the conflict-of-interest counts his clients face. Both DeWeese, a Democrat, and Orie, a Republican, represent parts of western Pennsylvania.

    “What happened yesterday isn’t going to necessarily resolve the challenge here in Pennsylvania,” Costopoulos said. “But it is authority, and I believe compelling authority, to do what I would like done. And that is, have this statute in Pennsylvania declared unconstitutional, as it is being applied.”

    Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, says Costopoulos is trying to “fit a square peg in a round hole.”

    He said Pennsylvania’s state statutes have no connection to the federal law.

    But Costopoulos says both laws are unconstitutionally vague. He hopes judges will take the Supreme Court ruling into consideration when they weigh his challenge.

    The Supreme Court limited the use of a federal fraud law frequently invoked in prosecutions of white-collar crime.

    The ruling affects separate cases involving former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and ex-newspaper magnate Conrad Black.

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