Anne E. Nelson saw a few rowdy customers during the three years she tended bar at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar, but she was never afraid to ask intoxicated patrons to leave when they’d had too much.
That all changed when one day last summer when Nelson, 28, asked a drunk, disruptive patron to leave the establishment, and to also leave behind the full glass of beer in his hand. He retaliated by smashing the glass in her face.
Steve A. Kanan, 42, was sentenced Thursday in Juneau Superior Court for felony assault, an incident that was rare in its severity for Juneau’s downtown bar scene. Kanan was presumptive to serve one to three years in prison, and Judge Louis Menendez imposed six years with three and a half suspended. That’s two and a half years to serve.
“When you drink, you become a violent and dangerous person,” the judge told Kanan.
Prosecutors had requested three years, citing Kanan’s alcohol-fueled criminal history that includes an incident at Marlintini’s in 2011 that the judge called “starkly comparable” to the Aug. 23, 2013, incident involving Nelson.
In that case, Kanan got drunk, acted belligerent toward a female bartender and called her a vulgar name, according to a court memo filed by Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp. When a bouncer intervened, Kanan elbowed him and tried to bite him. Kanan was charged and convicted of misdemeanor assault.
Kanan wasn’t supposed to be drinking at that time — he was on probation for a DWI from 2008 that prohibited him from consuming alcohol, Kemp said.
Kanan also was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2004 for attempting to strangle his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Kemp said. Again, alcohol was a major component of that case, records show.
“Bad things happen when Mr. Kanan drinks,” Kemp said.
Nelson had never seen Kanan before that night, and she did not serve him alcohol, either. She thinks he got the glass from another customer who had a pitcher of beer.
When several customers at the bar complained about Kanan’s behavior around 9:30 p.m. that night, she politely asked him to go. As he moved toward the door, she asked him three times to put down the pint-sized glass of beer in his hand before leaving.
“Next thing I know I have a glass smashed in the my face and I’m bleeding everywhere,” Nelson said in an interview Thursday.
Normally, a bouncer would have escorted him out but the bouncers don’t start working until 10 p.m., she said.
Nelson remembers screaming and running to the bathroom. Her friends tackled Kanan before he got away, and police arrested him on the spot.
The incident turned Nelson’s world upside down as she dealt with the physical and emotional trauma that followed.
She received 34 stitches for the lacerations on her face and hand during a nine-hour stay at Bartlett Regional Hospital’s Emergency Room. A deep cut on her finger severed a nerve and she later had surgery to repair the damage.
“It’s still not fully recovered,” she said.
The two deep, small scars on her forehead “made me look like Harry Potter,” Nelson said jokingly. The scarring has faded with time, although it will never completely go away.
“It’s gone down significantly,” she said, saying laser surgery, Botox and face creams have helped.
Nelson also struggled with feelings of anxiety and sought counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She tried to go back to the Alaskan for its 100th anniversary celebration last year, but she couldn’t and had to leave.
“I was emotionally distraught for sure,” she said. “It definitely affected me more than I thought it would.”
As part of a plea deal, Kanan was required to pen a letter of apology to Nelson and to pay $30,000 in restitution. He again apologized on Thursday.
He maintains the incident was an accident. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee, said Kanan had only intended to splash the beer in Nelson’s face, not hit her with the glass. Lee said Nelson’s hand went up and hit the glass when her client tried to splash the beer, causing it to shatter.
Nelson says that’s not what happened. She doesn’t believe Kanan intended to harm anyone when he came into the bar, but that he meant to strike her with the glass.
“I think he did it intentionally,” she said, adding she never reached for the glass. “I put my hand up to defend myself. If I didn’t have my hand up, I could potentially be blind right now.”
In addition to the jail time, Kanan also will be required to serve four years probation after his release. He won’t be allowed to consume alcohol or go to bars during that time.
“No bars, is that clear?” Menendez asked Kanan directly after announcing the sentence.
“Yes, your honor,” Kanan replied, nodding his head.
Nelson said she approved of the plea deal that was on the table, and is ready to move on with her life. She worked at the bar to afford nursing school at the University of Alaska Southeast, and the incident took place three days before school started. She’s now a year from graduating.
“I feel better now,” she said. “It took a while, but there’s not a day I don’t think about it.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.