A trio of judges has ruled against an ex-Las Vegas politician who appealed her conviction in the Strippergate case, clearing the way for a long-awaited decision in the appeals involving former San Diego City Councilmen Ralph Inzunza and Michael Zucchet.

Last month, the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that, without explanation, put the San Diego cases on hold until the parallel Las Vegas case was decided. The Las Vegas case was argued first, about a year ago.

The judge who wrote the opinion on Mary Kincaid-Chauncey’s appeal, Jay S. Bybee, is also a panelist who heard arguments in the San Diego cases. Though difficult to gauge, that could bode well for the government.

Legal experts have speculated that the judges delayed the San Diego ruling because the two sister cases have a particular issue in common — the controversial honest-services fraud statute — that once resolved would be binding in the San Diego case.

Inzunza is appealing his conviction; the government is appealing Zucchet’s acquittal. Both were argued at the same hearing in June.

At both San Diego and Las Vegas appeal hearings, the arguments essentially centered on whether the jury should have been required to find an explicit quid pro quo, or merely an implicit something-for-something arrangement — and whether there was enough evidence to prove either situation.

The Las Vegas decision contains a lengthy discussion of the honest-services statute. The appeals judges found that the Las Vegas trial judge gave adequate jury instructions on the definition of a quid pro quo.

The defense had contended the judge should have required the jury to find an explicit quid pro quo — that Kincaid-Chauncey accepted money from strip club owner Michael Galardi with clear intentions to vote on his behalf at a particular time. The defense said there was no criminal intent, and no proof of such.

Kincaid-Chauncey was convicted in 2006. She is scheduled to be released from custody in March after serving a 30-month sentence. She had pursued the appeal to clear her name.

On a related matter, some legal observers had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the honest-services statute, which is being challenged in most, if not all, circuits around the country. Some thought the high court might consider the honest-services fraud case of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, but the request was rejected today, though Justice Antonin Scalia said he’d voted to decide the case.


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