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Jury selected in arson case

Trial for Ashley Johnston, 19, slated to begin Wednesday

Posted: February 19, 2013 - 1:30pm  |  Updated: February 20, 2013 - 1:08am

A jury has been selected for one of the three defendants charged in connection to the fire at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park this past summer, which scorched materials being used to replace the turf football field.

A pool of 61 jurors was whittled down to 12 jurors and one alternate in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday.

The trial for defendant Ashley R. Johnston, 19, will begin Wednesday with opening statements at 8:30 a.m.

Proceedings on Tuesday began on rocky footing as Johnston appeared in court about 40 minutes late, which earned her a verbal reprimand from Judge Philip Pallenberg.

“That’s not a very good start to your trial,” Pallenberg said, noting the only reason he did not vacate the trial was due to the scheduling inconveniences it would cause witnesses and the court.

Pallenberg had ordered a $5,000 bench warrant for her arrest while she was absent, at the request of Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams. The warrant was quashed when she appeared in court.

Johnston is charged with two felonies in connection to the June 19 fire, which fire officials said at the time caused around $20,000 in damages. A John Deere tractor, a spreader trailer and special adhesive glue belonging to the company fixing the field were all damaged, they said.

Johnston is facing one count of third-degree arson and one count of third-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, she could be facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. She is also charged with a misdemeanor for criminal trespass, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

Prosecutors said earlier that Johnston, Ryan M. Martin, 24, and Dillon P. West, 24, were all caught on video surveillance footage just before the fire department responded to the fire at the park.

Johnston and Martin were indicted for arson, but the grand jury failed to return a true bill for West, who is only facing three misdemeanor charges. West is scheduled to go to trial in District Court on April 1.

Martin failed to appear at a trial call last week, and Pallenberg issued a $5,000 bench warrant for his arrest at that time. That warrant was quashed shortly thereafter when Martin called the court, Williams said in a phone interview late Tuesday afternoon. His trial is still slated to begin in April, also before Pallenberg.

The three had all previously been released on their own recognizance.

Johnston’s trial is scheduled to last four days. She is represented by Public Defender Timothy Ayer.

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

 

Editor’s Note: The above story includes updated information about jury selection, as well as additional information regarding a warrant issued for Ryan M. Martin. The warrant out for his arrest has since been quashed.

 

••• Original story below

 

By EMILY RUSSO MILLER

JUNEAU EMPIRE

Jury selection is underway for one of the three defendants charged in connection to the fire at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park this past summer, which scorched materials being used to replace the turf football field.

A pool of 61 jurors appeared in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday morning. Twelve jurors will be selected, plus one alternate.

The jury trial proceedings for Ashley R. Johnston, 19, got off to a rocky start Wednesday when she appeared in court about 40 minutes late, which earned her a verbal reprimand from Judge Philip Pallenberg.

“That’s not a very good start to your trial,” Pallenberg said, noting the only reason he did not vacate the trial was due to the scheduling inconveniences it would cause witnesses and the court.

Pallenberg had ordered a $5,000 bench warrant for her arrest while she was absent, at the request of Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams. The warrant was quashed when she appeared in court.

Johnston is charged with two felonies in connection to the June 19 fire, which fire officials said at the time caused around $20,000 in damages. A John Deere tractor, a spreader trailer and special adhesive glue belonging to the company fixing the field were all damaged, they said.

Johnston is facing one count of third-degree arson and one count of third-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, she could be facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. She is also charged with a misdemeanor for criminal trespass, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

Prosecutors said earlier that Johnston, Ryan M. Martin, 24, and Dillon P. West, 24, were all caught on video surveillance footage just before the fire department responded to the fire at the park.

Johnston and Martin were indicted for arson, but the grand jury failed to return a true bill for West, who is only facing three misdemeanor charges. West is scheduled to go to trial in District Court on April 1.

Martin failed to appear at his trial call hearing in court last week, and Pallenberg issued a $5,000 bench warrant for his arrest at that time. His trial is still slated to begin in April, also before Pallenberg.

The three had all previously been released on their own recognizance.

Johnston’s trial is scheduled to last four days. She is represented by Public Defender Timothy Ayer.

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

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