A Juneau teenager wanted for arson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two felony charges relating to the June 19 fire at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Another suspect in the arson, which fire investigators say damaged $20,000 worth of city and a private company’s property, has already appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. But prosecutors said Ashley R. Johnston, 18, was eluding authorities.
A $500 warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to appear in court in July, and she was arrested by a Juneau Police Department officer last Thursday in the 100 block of Egan Drive, according to police and court records.
Johnston appeared in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday before Judge Philip Pallenberg, who appointed the public defender agency to represent her. Johnston told the judge during a financial inquiry she had never been employed before and was job searching.
Johnston’s new attorney, Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee, entered not guilty pleas on her behalf and requested a jury trial to be scheduled. The trial was set for early December.
Pallenberg provided Johnston with a copy of the indictment issued by a grand jury, and read the charges aloud: third-degree arson and third-degree criminal mischief. Both of those are class ‘C’ felonies, which can carry a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The judge advised Johnston that she is also facing two misdemeanor charges for drinking alcohol that night and for trespassing. Those are class ‘B’ felonies that can carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Since Johnston’s $500 bail was posted the same day she was arrested, the judge further ordered her to avoid contact with Adair-Kennedy field, and her codefendant, Ryan M. Martin, 23. Court records indicate the bond amount was posted Sept. 6 by Patric James, 22, of Monroe, Wash.
Prosecutors allege Johnston and Martin caused an explosion at the field that night, and that the blaze damaged a tractor and other materials being used to replace the turf football field that belonged to the City and Borough of Juneau and to Shaw Sportexe. The two were indicted by a grand jury last month.
Prosecutors also tried to indict a third person in the crime; however, the grand jury did not return a true bill for any felony charges for Dillon P. West, 24. West only faces misdemeanor charges for criminal trespass, criminal mischief and furnishing alcohol to persons under 21.
Prosecutors say all three were caught on video surveillance footage the night of the fire, shortly before the fire department responded to the scene.
The cases against Martin and Johnston are consolidated, and they are to be tried together, according to court records.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: Clarification: The wording of an earlier version of this story mistakenly gave the impression Johnston posted her own bond. Court records indicate bond was posted by another person.