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Courts Round-up for Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013

Posted: November 3, 2013 - 1:05am

 Man pleads not guilty to felony assault 

A 27-year-old Juneau man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony assault charges relating to a domestic violence incident reported on Oct. 19.

A woman reported that Ryan Cook choked her during an argument, and that she left to seek assistance at the AWARE shelter. According to an affidavit, when she returned to the home about 30 minutes later to collect her personal belongings, Cook wouldn’t let her leave, dragged her into the bedroom and again choked her during a struggle, according to an affidavit. The affidavit states the woman escaped to a neighbor’s house and the neighbor called 911.

Cook was indicted by a grand jury on Friday on one count of second-degree assault and two counts of third-degree assault.

Court records show he entered his not guilty plea during an arraignment in Juneau Superior Court. His attorney Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee declined to comment about the case.

Cook is slated to stand trial in late January.

 

Man, woman sentenced for meth deals

A 23-year-old man was sentenced last month to serve 17 months in prison for dealing methamphetamine in Juneau.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez also imposed six months to serve for a probation violation for Dakota Gallant, bringing Gallant’s composite sentence to 23 months to serve without probation.

Gallant was indicted in April on two felony counts of third-degree drug misconduct for dealing the drug on April 4 and April 7, 2012. He entered into a plea deal that reduced one of the counts from a class ‘B’ felony to a class ‘C’ felony and that dismissed the other count.

Both prosecutors and the defense agreed that rehabilitation should be one of the primary sentencing goals given Gallant’s young age and because this is his first felony offense in Alaska.

District Attorney James Scott applauded Gallant for taking responsibility for his actions, which Scott described as a serious offense that required a felony conviction.

Gallant’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer, said Gallant was addicted to drugs at the time and did not deal drugs before this instance. Ayer said Gallant only did it to seemingly help out a friend.

Gallant has since gotten clean and no longer wants that lifestyle, Ayer said. The attorney said his client will be moving back with his family out of state after he is released from prison.

The same grand jury that indicted Gallant also indicted the woman who gave Gallant a ride in her car to one of the drug deals, which took place in the Walmart parking lot. Originally charged with a felony for aiding and abetting the crime, Jenifer B. Johnston pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge in September and was sentenced to 12 months in prison with nine months suspended and three years probation.

Her attorney, Thomas Collins, said the reduction in the charge makes sense because her participation in the crime was “slight.” Collins added that his client was dating Gallant at the time, but broke up with him before the indictment was issued and entered into rehab. He described the incident as a “wake up” call for Johnston, whom he noted has strong family support and good prospects of rehabilitation.

 

Skagway man gets 50 days for DV assault

A Skagway resident was sentenced to 300 days in prison with 250 days suspended, meaning 50 days to serve, and two years probation for a domestic violence assault.

Prosecutors said the victim in the case suffered burn marks on her back from the assault on May 26 that began with pushing and shoving and ended with the defendant, Tanis Baptiste, placing the woman in a chokehold while she was pushed down on a heater.

Baptiste, 29, was originally charged with felony assault, but he pleaded guilty to the reduced misdemeanor charge of attempted assault in the fourth degree.

Prosecutors said the reduction in charges was due to the victim stepping away from her original written statement to police. Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said that’s not unusual in domestic violence cases.

The victim, however, expressed frustration at an earlier bail hearing of being cast as a stereotypical victim of domestic violence who is caught in a cycle of violence and unable to leave a dangerous relationship, according to the defense attorney. Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer said the woman testified that Baptiste was never abusive in the past and that this was a one-time, singular incident. She has since ended the relationship and is planning on moving out of town.

Ayer said the misdemeanor charge was more appropriate in the case because it encompasses the element of “recklessly” injuring the woman rather than “intentionally” injuring her. He said his client did not intentionally try to burn the victim, or knowingly use the heater as a dangerous instrument, or know the heater was there or on.  Ayer said Baptiste does not have a criminal record and that the incident was fueled by alcohol and stress.

Prosecutors requested more prison time — 12 months with six months suspended, which is six months to serve  — while the defense argued for 180 days with 150 suspended.

Judge Philip Pallenberg said he had no reason to doubt the victim’s testimony that Baptiste does not have “battering behaviors” but that a jail sentence was warranted since Baptiste used force against his partner that resulted in injuries.

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