Court Round-up: Man gets nine years for sex assault on city bus



Man gets nine years for sex assault on city bus

A Juneau resident was sentenced to serve 13 years in prison with four years suspended for groping a woman with Down’s syndrome on a city bus in Juneau last fall.

That’s nine years to serve, plus 10 years probation, for 54-year-old Joseph A. Zeh. Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez handed down the sentence in September.

Zeh stood trial in Juneau in May of this year and was convicted of third-degree sexual assault, a felony, for having sexual contact with a person who is mentally incapable, and first-degree harassment, a misdemeanor, for offensive physical contact by touching through clothing.

Prosecutors say Zeh began touching the woman’s genital area on the outside of her pants after approaching her on the bus. Surveillance video camera footage on the bus and an eye witness helped identify Zeh as the perpetrator.

During his sentencing hearing, the victim’s mother spoke about how the traumatic incident affected her daughter and how she believes Zeh is a sexual predator targeting vulnerable people in the community.

Prosecutors echoed the sentiment, saying just a few days after this incident, Zeh tried to grab a 4-year-old child in a Juneau store, unaware that the child’s parents were nearby. The child was unharmed.

Menendez described Zeh as a danger to the community and said he should be isolated from the public.


Father sentenced to prison, probation for child’s injuries

An 18-year-old father accused of injuring his child has pled guilty to third-degree assault, a felony, and was sentenced to three years in prison with two years suspended.

Michael T. Williams, now 19, entered into a plea deal and was sentenced by Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez in late August.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor fourth-degree assault charge that was brought against him in connection to the same incident. The deal also requires Williams to serve three years probation after his release from prison.

Prosecutors said the charges stemmed from an incident on Jan. 17 in Hoonah wherein Williams squeezed the 5-week-old infant, caused injuries and bruising to her face and then failed to seek immediate medical attention.

Williams maintains the injuries were a result of an accident — he said he almost dropped the baby, but grabbed her before she fell. He accidently squeezed her too hard when he was catching her.


Juneau man sentenced for domestic violence assault

A Juneau resident was sentenced to serve 270 days with 210 days suspended, or 60 days to serve, for a domestic violence assault.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg imposed the sentence for Hugo A. Vanegas, 32, last month. The judge also required Vanegas to serve three years probation, to obtain an alcohol abuse screening assessment and receive treatment if needed and to complete a batterer accountability program.

Prosecutors said Vanegas caused physical injury to a woman by choking her and hitting her during an altercation in April. The woman sustained a bloody lip and had marks on her arms and neck, prosecutors said.

Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Polasky said the couple was arguing and the woman slapped Vanegas because he was yelling at her. Polasky said Vanegas, who was reportedly drunk, overreacted and escalated the violence by punching the woman in the face and beating her up.

Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer, on the other hand, said the state’s case was weak because there was no physical evidence of strangulation, the woman was the one who started the altercation and because his client sustained serious injuries as well, as evidenced by bruising on his shoulder and eye.

While Ayer downplayed the incident at sentencing, Judge Pallenberg found that the allegations were serious and he doesn’t believe the victim was lying. The judge said just because the woman slapped Vanegas first doesn’t make it OK.

“That does not make it OK to return that violence and to do so to a much greater degree than what she did,” Pallenberg said.

Vanegas was originally charged with a class ‘B’ felony for second-degree assault and another misdemeanor charge. He entered into a plea deal on Sept. 17, and prosecutors agreed to reduce the assault charge to a misdemeanor and dismissed the remaining charge in exchange for his guilty plea.

The woman did not attend the sentencing hearing, but Polasky told the judge she was relieved a plea deal was reached so that she did not have to testify about the ordeal at a trial.


Teen sentenced for escaping detention facility

An 18-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in prison with three years suspended and four years probation for escaping the juvenile detention facility in Juneau.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez handed down the sentence for Amante R. Frazier-Reese earlier this month.

Authorities said Frazier-Reese and co-defendant Alexander J. Netling, 19, jumped the Johnson Youth Center fence in January as the building was under construction, but they were found and taken back into custody the same night.

Both men were charged with felony escape and misdemeanor criminal mischief and have since entered into a plea deal. Frazier-Reese agreed to plead guilty to the reduced charge of “attempted” escape in the second degree, and in return prosecutors dismissed the criminal mischief charge.

Prosecutors said Frazier-Reese caused damage to the JYC building located on Hospital Drive during the escape, and he will be required to pay restitution.

Netling was sentenced in late August. Electronic court records did not provide his sentencing information or the terms of his plea deal.


Man sentenced for Yakutat boat burglaries

One of the men accused of ransacking boats docked at the Yakutat Municipal Boat Harbor has pled guilty to two counts of second-degree burglary and was sentenced.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg sentenced Kenneth Jay Bremner, 27, to three years in prison with two years suspended for the first count, and two years with one year suspended for the second count.

Since the time to serve is consecutive, Bremner’s composite sentence is five years in prison with three years suspended. He will also have to serve three years probation. Pallenberg imposed the sentence in late September.

Bremner and co-defendant Killian P. Long, 19, were each facing five counts of first-degree burglary for the crime. The Yakutat Police Department said the defendants boarded commercial fishing vessels at the harbor on April 26 and stole from some of them. Among the missing items were a flat screen TV and expensive tools.

Police said in an affidavit the incident caused the fisherman “a great inconvenience” and they weren’t able to fish that day because their fishing gear and equipment were found strewn around their vessels.

Police said video surveillance from the harbormasters office revealed two people walking away from the area carrying an item similar to a flat screen TV. The affidavit states Bremner admitted to his involvement when he was contacted at the Yakutat Seafood’s dock.

Defense attorney Julie Willoughby noted at the sentencing hearing that her client has been straight-forward about his involvement since he was first contacted by law enforcement and that he wants to accept responsibility. She said that people in Yakutat know that Bremner is a “good, hard-working guy” when he is not drinking; she said he does “knucklehead” things when he is drinking. She said Bremner told her that he wants to stop drinking because he’s “too old for this.”

Bremner entered into a plea deal that dismissed three of his first-degree burglary charges in exchange for his guilty plea to the two charges of second-degree burglary. Second-degree burglary is a class ‘C’ felony.

Electronic court records show Long intended to change his plea last week. It’s not clear if that hearing was held.


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