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State Appeals Court upholds long sentence

Posted: April 15, 2012 - 11:06pm

The Alaska Court of Appeals Friday upheld a lengthy jail sentence for a man convicted of kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old Juneau girl in 2008.

Court of Appeals Judge David Mannheimer wrote in an opinion the 40-year sentence for Christopher Allen Scholes, 43, was not excessive, as Scholes had argued in an appeal.

“We uphold the superior court’s rulings on these matters, and we further conclude that Scholes’s sentence is not excessive,” Mannheimer wrote.

Chief Judge Robert G. Coats, Joel H. Bolger and Mannheimer considered the appeal, with Mannheimer writing the opinion. It was published online Friday.

Court documents show Scholes kidnapped the girl as she was walking by herself near Floyd Dryden Middle School around 7 p.m. Dec. 1, 2008. Scholes walked behind her, then placed her in a choke hold until she lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness and began to scream, Scholes threatened to kill her unless she remained quiet.

He then bound her legs and hands with duct tape, carried her to his vehicle, drove her to his home, removed her clothing by cutting it off with scissors, then proceeded to rape her repeatedly.

Two hours later, he drove the girl back to the school and left her there blindfolded. She reported it to authorities the next day.

Scholes was arrested a week later in East Sound, Wash., and pleaded guilty to kidnapping, second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and a single count of first-degree sexual assault.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg last January imposed a composite sentence of 70 years with 30 years suspended. That’s 40 years to serve.

Scholes argued in his appeal that his criminal behavior was out of character, that his crimes arose from a “perfect storm” of mental illness and extenuating circumstances, and that it was extremely unlikely he would engage in such behavior again. Scholes was bipolar and was off his medication before the attack, according to Empire archives.

The court of appeals found this proposed explanation unconvincing, as did Pallenberg.

“(Pallenberg) concluded that some of Scholes’s problems were longstanding ones that predated the onset of his bipolar disorder. He noted that Scholes had proved resistant to mental health treatment in the past. And he concluded that Scholes’s mental problems entailed more than simply bipolar disorder — because, as the judge noted, there are large numbers of people who suffer from bipolar disorder who do not commit kidnapping and rape,” Mannheimer wrote.

Mannheimer continued, “Our review of the record convinces us that, given the facts of Scholes’s case, and given the sentencing framework established by the legislature, a composite sentence of 40 years to serve is not clearly mistaken.”

The court of appeals also found Pallenberg was right to find two sentencing aggravators for ‘deliberate cruelty’ and ‘most serious’ conduct. Pallenberg also rightly refused to refer the case to a statewide three-judge sentencing panel, the opinion states.

Pallenberg had found the “deliberate cruelty” aggravator based on one instance during the assault when Scholes gave the girl, still bound by hand and foot and screaming in pain, a teddy bear to bite down on to help endure her pain. Pallenberg said that was proof Scholes gratuitously inflicted pain on his victim.

“(Scholes’s) response was not to stop causing that pain; it was to give her a teddy bear to bite down on — which meant that he consciously chose to continue inflicting pain,” Pallenberg noted.

The court of appeals agreed with that characterization, saying “Pallenberg could reasonably find that Scholes purposely inflicted pain on his victim for its own sake.”

Scholes, in his appeal, challenged Pallenberg’s finding that the sexual assault conduct was the most serious within the definition of that crime. The high court disagreed, saying there was “ample justification” to find that sentencing aggravator.

Mannheimer pointed to the length of the assault, the brutality of the assault and Scholes’s threats to kill the victim, as well as his threats to burn her feet and put screws in her body.

Scholes remains incarcerated at Hudson Correctional Facility in Hudson, Colo., according to VINELink, an online victim information and notification website.

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

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