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Merger issue raised in sex assault case sentencing

Sentencing hearing for Frank W. Lee, 61, moved to Jan. 23

Posted: January 9, 2014 - 1:30pm  |  Updated: January 10, 2014 - 12:07am

The sentencing hearing for a Juneau man convicted of sexual assault was postponed Thursday when the judge raised the issue of merging convictions, which could cut the prison time Frank W. Lee is facing by half.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez asked the attorneys to brief the issue and rescheduled the sentencing hearing for Jan. 23, despite a packed courtroom full of people ready to proceed.

Lee was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual assault for separate sexual acts involving the same incident in September 2012. He was accused of performing sexual acts on a younger family member while she was sleeping; one count relates to penetrating the victim orally, and the other count with his fingers.

Second-degree sexual assault is a class ‘B’ felony sex offense that can carry up to 99 years in prison. But because Lee does not have a prior felony conviction, he falls into a presumptive sentencing range of five to 15 years to serve.

If the two counts remain separate, Lee will face five to 15 years for each, meaning he could be facing up to 30 years in prison. If the convictions were to be merged, he would only be facing five to 15 years for both counts.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams signalled she opposed the merger, while Lee’s attorney Eric Hedland indicated he agreed with it. When the judge raised the issue on Thursday, he allowed the attorneys to submit written motions about it rather than making arguments in the courtroom “on the fly.”

Lee’s trial took place in Juneau before Menendez in September 2013. He was acquitted of a third count — and the most serious felony — relating to the same incident, first-degree sexual assault.

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

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