Three Juneau residents were arraigned in Juneau Superior Court Thursday on serious drug charges related to dealing methamphetamine and heroin.
District Attorney David Brower said the trio were indicted by a grand jury, but the indictments were kept secret until they were brought into custody, which Brower said is allowed for under the Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure.
“It happens from time to time,” Brower said in a phone interview.
The rule states that returns of indictments to the superior court are public proceedings, unless the court directs that the proceedings be closed to the public and kept secret until the defendant is in custody or given bail.
In that event, the clerk seals the indictment and no one is allowed to disclose the finding of the indictment except when a warrant or summons is executed.
Court records indicate a grand jury issued these indictments on June 29.
In court Thursday, Judge Philip Pallenberg read the charging documents aloud and entered not guilty pleas for the defendants: Todd L. Johnson, Flynn T. Lobaugh and Ernie J. Tullis. The judge appointed the Office of Public Advocacy to represent them.
Although advised not to talk about the facts of the case without an attorney present, Johnson complained to the judge that an undercover confidential informant — a woman he knew — had set him up. Johnson told the judge he had even warned Tullis and Lobaugh, who were in shackles sitting beside him, that she was “rat” or a “snitch,” he told the judge.
“I tried helping her, and she burned me,” Johnson said.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams declined to comment how the defendants knew each other or how the cases were related. Police could not be reached by press time, and because the cases went straight to indictment, a criminal complaint containing more information was not filed.
Electronic court records indicate they were placed into custody Wednesday when officers executed bench warrants for their arrest.
Johnson is charged with third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for allegedly knowingly delivering methamphetamine on May 18. That’s a class ‘B’ felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He was also indicted for third-degree weapons misconduct for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm that is capable of being concealed. That’s a class ‘C’ felony punishable by up to five years.
During a financial inquiry, Johnson told the judge he has been unemployed since 1999. He said he is disabled and collects Social Security and disability benefits.
Williams requested Johnson be held in custody on $20,000 bail based on his criminal history and out-of-state ties which may pose a flight risk. Williams alleged he had two prior felony convictions — one for distributing cocaine — and that he has been in legal trouble in South Carolina.
Johnson, who is in his 30s, has short brown hair, wears glasses and speaks with a thick Southern drawl, said that even though his closest family member is “3,000 miles away,” he does not pose a flight risk. He said he’s lived in Juneau for a “quite a while” and that he has a son and a soon-to-be wife.
Johnson became upset near the end of the hearing after learning his bail would be higher than the other two defendants even though the crimes he’s accused of aren’t as serious felonies.
He stood up from the defendant’s table while Williams was talking and said the charges against him were “bull,” which prompted the court security officer to run over to him and push him back down into his chair by his shoulders. The officer told him not to stand up unless he was instructed to.
Johnson then argued his bail should be lower, explaining that he was convicted of drug misconduct when he was a teenager in 1997, but has since turned his life around.
“I was a young man, 16, 17 years old, foolish, and I made a mistake,” he argued.
Johnson said the last time he was trouble was in 2007.
Pallenberg had originally granted the $20,000 bail request, saying he believes people can change and put their pasts behind them, but that he doesn’t consider 2007 “ancient times.” The judge also noted that he doesn’t have a crystal ball, so the best way for him to determine the future is to look at the past. But at the end of the hearing, Pallenberg changed his mind and lowered Johnson’s bail to $15,000 to keep it more consistent with Lobaugh and Tullis.
The second defendant, Lobaugh, who is in his early 20s, was indicted on three felonies: second-degree drug misconduct for allegedly delivering heroin on April 26; second degree-drug misconduct for delivering heroin on April 5; and third-degree drug misconduct for delivering methamphetamine on March 29. The first two alleged offenses are class ‘A’ felonies that can carry up to 20 years each. The latter is a class ‘B’ felony that can carry 10 years.
Lobaugh also received stern words from the court security officer when he kept trying to turn around in his chair to make eye contact and speak with a crying girl sitting in the back of the courtroom.
Tullis, in his 30s, was indicted on one count of second-degree drug misconduct for knowingly delivering heroin from Feb. 15 through Feb. 23, as well as one count of third-degree drug misconduct for knowingly delivering methamphetamine during the same time frame.
Both Lobaugh and Tullis said they were unemployed during their financial inquiry, which is to see if they qualify for court-appointed counsel. Tullis said he collected unemployment benefits.
The judge previously issued a $10,000 bench warrant for Lobaugh’s arrest, and Williams asked him to maintain that amount for bail. Lobaugh said he wasn’t a flight risk and called that figure too “steep.” He asked instead for something around $2,500 or $3,000. The judge maintained the $10,000 amount.
Pallenberg also issued a $10,000 bench warrant for Tullis’ arrest, but Williams asked him to raise it to $15,000 in light of an extensive criminal history. Williams said Tullis has about 22 prior convictions, including one felony conviction for drug misconduct. Tullis said he didn’t have anything to say at this time, and the judge granted the prosecution’s request.
Pallenberg scheduled the three defendants to next appear in court for a hearing on Tuesday.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.