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Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Investigation Into Kitzhaber, Hayes

File photo of the west face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
File photo of the west face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

A U.S. Supreme Court rulingin a federal corruption case involving the former governor of Virginia could have implications in Oregon.

The high court Monday overturned the 2014 conviction of Virginia's Bob McDonnell, who was accused with his wife of accepting gifts in exchange for political favors. The court ruled prosecutors failed to connect those gifts and specific actions which happened as a result.

While the details are different, there are parallels to the criminal ethics investigation of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Kitzhaber stepped down last year but no charges have been filed.

Tung Yin, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, said the ruling could complicate prosecutors' attempts to pin charges on the former Oregon governor.

"Because now they think, 'OK, well, before we would have been satisfied with what we have, but now we need to go do more work to make sure we have enough to satisfy this new ruling,'" Yin said.

On the other hand, Yin said, the new standard may cause investigators to ditch the case entirely if it becomes clear they won't have enough evidence.

The Supreme Court's ruling doesn't mean McDonnell is in the clear. Justices sent his case back to a lower court, a move which allows federal prosecutors to re-try it, if they choose.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.