Michael L. Rae was the only person laughing in court during his sentencing hearing Wednesday.
But the chuckles subsided after a judge imposed an 8 year and 30 day flat jail sentence for stealing a Breeze In box truck, ramming it into the Alaska Brewing Co. building and stealing about $350 worth of beer last April.
A jury convicted Rae on three felony charges — vehicle theft, burglary and criminal mischief — as well as a misdemeanor theft charge in January.
On Wednesday, the 55-year-old Rae, who at first appeared defeatist then smirkingly amused, grew increasingly agitated as Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez explained his sentencing considerations for about an hour.
The agitation culminated with Rae angrily yelling at the judge to “Shut the f--- up.”
A few minutes later when the hearing was finished and the judge had left the courtroom, Rae refused to be fingerprinted.
The court security officer tried to pry Rae’s shackled hands away from Rae’s chest, but gave up after about a minute. Rae was escorted away from the courtroom to complete that process behind closed doors.
Rae has been candidly defiant and has interrupted court proceedings since his first court appearances last May. As the Empire reported earlier, he shouted “Tyranny!” in Judge Philip Pallenberg’s courtroom during a May 13. 2011 arraignment.
Rae has a history of courtroom antics — a previous trial judge in a 1994 court case ordered Rae bound and gagged so he wouldn’t interrupt.
Rae’s main source of dissatisfaction in this case seems to be that the court would not allow him to represent himself. That was an ongoing legal battle in and of itself ever since Rae was taken into custody. A Juneau District Court judge put an end to it in July and re-appointed counsel to represent Rae when the state complained he was incapable of making coherent arguments and for “interruptions and obstreperous behavior.”
Since then, Rae has “fired” his second attorney, Kevin Higgins, at least twice during open court, and Wednesday was no exception.
“Don’t take it personally, Kev,” Rae told Higgins with a toothy smile after Wednesday’s hearing was finished.
Rae’s first attorney, Natasha Norris, withdrew from the case after a hostile altercation with Rae at the jail.
District Attorney David Brower requested Rae serve 12 years in prison with an additional four years in suspended time. That’s the maximum sentence for each of the four convictions.
Brower argued Rae was a dangerous person with a criminal history that dates back 30 years.
“If you think about the damage he did to get $350 worth of beer for his companions — it’s mind-boggling that he would steal a truck, drive it into the Brewery and cause all that damage just to get some beer,” Brower said.
Brower wondered out loud whether Rae was a “sociopath.”
“To steal $350 worth of beer in that manner shows a complete disregard for societal norms,” Brower said. “I don’t know if Mr. Rae is a sociopath, but the acts over the years of him being convicted of numerous crimes, and in this case, this completely callous disregard of people’s property, I think the court can find he’s a worst offender.”
Menendez said he scoured over Rae’s criminal file and looked for any possible explanation for Rae’s behavior. Menendez noted a court-ordered psychological examination in September deemed Rae competent with no mental health issues.
“I didn’t find anything in your background that would indicate a cause for any of these behaviors,” Menendez said. “I was looking for something that would suggest a deprivation in your home, a psychological deprivation, something that happened to you. I found the exact opposite.”
Menendez said Rae has been convicted of about 17 misdemeanors and three felonies in the past three decades.
That includes one case when Rae helped someone beat up a drunk man in a parking lot and steal his money.
The judge said Rae has also been convicted for multiple assaults on police officers and for burglarizing the Hi-Tech Systems store in downtown Juneau.
The most recent conviction before the April 29, 2011 beer heist was for drunkenly going to a stranger’s house (a woman with a young child inside) and yelling while carrying a two-foot long club, Menendez said.
Menendez said Rae’s pattern of behavior led him to conclude that Rae was, simply, “criminally selfish” with a wanton disregard for property and the safety of others.
“You are a dangerous man, and you do not take the advice or warning of any other person but yourself,” Menendez said. “I believe, if it were to be categorized, you’re criminally selfish. You’ll do what you need to do to satisfy your own needs, and essentially the rest of society, you forget about or you don’t care about.”
Alcohol may play a role in that, Menendez speculated. At one point during the hearing, Rae became apologetic and begged for alcohol treatment, and told the judge, “I’m asking for help.”
The judge noted that it was remarkable no one was injured in the Alaska Brewing Co. incident last April, saying, “You used a machine with thousands of pounds of strength of steel and iron to crash into a building, which is remarkable that you didn’t get hurt, or that somebody else didn’t get hurt.”
Defense attorney Higgins asked the court to sentence Rae to three to five years. He argued the incident, though it got four convictions, was really just one continuous criminal episode.
Menendez said Rae has had “chances, chances and chances” in the past three decades to get his act together and has yet to change his ways.
His primary sentencing goal, Menendez said, was isolation to protect the public from Rae. Though when Menendez told Rae that, it prompted a snarky retort.
“I believe that if you were released today, I would expect you to come back to court in terms of re-offending. The court’s primary consideration in this case is the safety of the public,” Menendez said.
“What are you? A fortune teller or something? A seer?” Rae replied, out of turn.
“No, I’m not,” Menendez responded.
“Then why don’t you cut the bull----. You don’t know why you’re making this assumptions (sic).”
“Mr. Rae, are you going to let me finish?” Menendez said.
“I was just talking,” Rae said.
Rae refused to be sentenced to probation, though the judge noted that would have been “a lost cause” anyway since Rae has repeatedly failed rehabilitation and has prior probation violations.
Rae also refused to pay restitution, saying “I’m not paying for anything.” The judge ignored his refusal and granted Brower’s request to submit a restitution claim in the next 60 days.
Testimony during the trial revealed the incident caused some $4,500 in physical damage to the building and $8,959 in damages to the truck.
Rae also told the judge, as well as Higgins and Brower, that they were all frauds. He told the court he intends to appeal the sentence.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.