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Accused child abuser allowed to travel to Massachusetts

Posted: April 25, 2012 - 11:10pm

A Juneau Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that Joshua David Burger, who is accused of child sex abuse, is allowed to leave Alaska with his third-party custodian mother while awaiting his September trial.

Judge Philip Pallenberg found Burger didn’t pose a flight risk since such a substantial amount of bail was posted — half a million dollars.

“With the very large amount of bail that was posted, I think that is adequate security against the risk of flight,” Pallenberg said during a hearing.

Pallenberg did deny, however, a request to ease Burger’s strict third-party custodian requirements. That would have left Burger essentially on house/property arrest instead of within sight and sound of a custodian 24 hours a day.

The 37-year-old former Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. employee is charged with four felony counts of sexual abuse of a minor from 2004 to 2007.

Burger was originally indicted on 100 counts last April, but Pallenberg dismissed that indictment when he found inadmissible evidence was presented to the grand jury.

Burger was re-indicted on the four counts April 13, and his trial was re-scheduled to begin in early September.

Court records show Burger was released on $500,000 cash bail in late January when his mother, Barbara Sager, used her retirement money to post her son’s bail. Sager was also approved to be her son’s third-party custodian in January.

Sager moved from Massachusetts to Juneau to keep Burger within 24 hour sight-and-sound, as required by the court.

But on Wednesday, Sager testified she had only anticipated being away from her Haverhill, Mass., home for a couple months since Burger’s trial was slated to begin this month, before the indictment was dismissed. Haverhill is about 35 miles north of Boston.

“I cleared my schedule so I could be here for three months,” Sager said in her sworn statement. “Unfortunately, the trial has been delayed.”

Burger’s attorney Julie Willoughby requested Burger be able to live at his mother’s home until August, a month before the trial begins. Willoughby also asked the court to allow Sager to leave the house with Burger unattended.

Sager testified she lived by herself since her husband died three years ago. Her house, which sits on three-quarters of an acre, is fixed with an alarm system that chimes whenever a window or door is opened. She promised the court she would keep the password secret so Burger couldn’t sneak out unnoticed.

“I was confident enough before to put up half a million dollars,” Sager said on the stand. “We’ve been up together for three months now, and I’m even more confident that there’s no problem. I’m perfectly confident that he’ll do everything he’s supposed to do.”

Willoughby argued if Burger were to flee, his mother would be out $500,000.

“There’s enough money on the line that Mr. Burger would not violate,“ Willoughby said.

District Attorney David Brower vigorously protested both Burger’s request to depart Alaska and to ease the third-party custodian requirements.

“If she has to go back, so be it,” Brower said, adding the court can always approve another proposed third-party custodian. “I think he’s a flight risk. I think he’s manipulative. I think ... Mr. Burger is out for himself at this point.”

The alleged victim’s mother also addressed the court to oppose Burger’s request to leave Alaska. She read a statement saying Burger was dishonest man with a criminal mind who leads a double life and is capable of “unthinkable deception.”

Pallenberg told the parties since Burger was already released to a third-party custodian in Juneau, he couldn’t find reason for Burger not to be in Massachusetts under the same third-party custodian.

“In terms of the travel restriction, I don’t see a good reason not to allow him travel to Massachusetts under certain conditions as proposed,” Pallenberg said, saying Burger would have to provide the court a round-trip itinerary of his travel plans.

But Burger is to remain under 24-hour sight and sound of his mother, as previously ordered, Pallenberg said.

“I’m not willing to relax that,” Pallenberg said. “Mr. Burger is charged with some very serious crimes, and it’s not for me to say at this time whether he did those things or not. That’s for a jury to decide at trial.”

But, Pallenberg added, “Given that finding by the grand jury and pending charges, I think there needs to be supervision.”

Court records show Burger is originally from Massachusetts, graduated from Princeton University, worked on Wall Street, then moved to Juneau in 2003 to work for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. He is scheduled to next be in Juneau court on Aug. 23 for a pretrial hearing.

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

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