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Jury to take up beer heist case Friday

Posted: January 20, 2012 - 1:09am

A jury is expected to deliberate over a criminal case against an alleged beer heist operative on Friday morning, following final closing arguments after two days at trial.

Michael Rae, 54, stands accused of stealing a Breeze In box truck, driving it into the Alaska Brewing Co. building and stealing cases and kegs of beer last April. He faces felony charges of vehicle theft, burglary and criminal mischief.

Prosecutors called employees of Breeze In’s Lemon Creek location and Alaska Brewing Co. to the stand on Wednesday, and they revealed the incident caused some $4,500 in physical damage to the building and $8,959 in damages to the truck, as well as $300 to board up the gift shop and $515 in retail of the beer stolen, according to court notes.

On Thursday, District Attorney David Brower showed the jury video surveillance tapes from Walmart and a halfway house that showed a white box truck with lettering on its side driving on Glacier Highway around 4 a.m. on April 29, the time and date the crime is alleged to have taken place, coming and going from the direction of Rae’s residence on Glacier Highway.

Brower also showed the jury photographs of evidence, like pictures of beer bottles seen under a wooden structure in the yard in front of the residence and a beer bottle label found on the driveway. A judge ruled that evidence admissible, because he found it to be in plain view, an exception to the general fourth Amendment requirement government officials obtain a warrant before conducting a search. Other evidence could not be shown to the jury after the judge recently agreed with the defense’s motion that a search warrant, and all evidence obtained pursuant to it, should be suppressed.

Defense attorney Kevin Higgins had argued earlier there was no record of the search warrant proceedings, and since no record of the search warrant exists, then the search warrant must be suppressed, in accordance with a 1981 Alaska Supreme Court ruling in Nelson v. State.

On Thursday, Higgins made a motion for judgement of acquittal, at the request of his client who asked the judge multiple times throughout Thursday’s proceedings for a mistrial.

“Essentially, it’s saying that as a matter of law the state hasn’t proven their case,” Higgins said outside the courtroom, regarding the acquittal. “It’s something that’s frequently not granted because most judges are hesitant to step in and replace their judgement for the jury’s.”

Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez denied the motion, and scheduled the attorneys to make their closing remarks Friday morning.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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