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Empire editorial: Runaway train

Posted: February 21, 2012 - 12:01am

“What are you thinking?”

It’s a question a lot of people are asking while talking about the actions of District Attorney David Brower. Brower’s first year in office has been marked by some controversial decisions.

Serious sexual abuse charges were dropped against a former police officer accused of, and indicted for child molestation. Those counts were dropped not just against the alleged victim’s will but without even a heads-up to her attorney. It was a lousy 18th birthday present for a young woman whose life was already turned upside down to be revictimized by the court system.

Brower did come around and get a stronger plea deal, again with no sex-related charges, only after a member of Brian Ervin’s family came to Juneau to testify that Ervin had molested him when he was a child. Brower has consistently refused to explain his reasoning.

A few weeks ago the D.A. tried to charge an 18-year-old man from Hoonah for having and distributing child pornography — an inappropriate photo his 17-year-old girlfriend had sent him via cell phone before they broke up. Bad judgment to share that photo? Yes. Kiddie porn monger? No. Inexplicable decision by the D.A. to go for the jugular? Definitely. The eight counts of possession and two counts of distribution of child pornography would have meant some serious jail time.

“Upon further review, it didn’t meet the statutory requirements for child pornography,” the D.A. said after dropping the charges. That determination should have been made before an 18-year-old was publicly charged with a horrible crime.

There are more examples, but the biggest and most recent legal travesty to roll down the courthouse steps is a charge of domestic violence assault against a man who accidentally shot his brother in the leg last year while disassembling a recently purchased and unfamiliar firearm in a car. Great bodily injury resulted. This is not only a family tragedy but a case of very bad judgment that could have gone even worse.

Misconduct with a firearm? Maybe. But calling this accident a domestic violence assault cheapens the actual crime of domestic violence, a crime so serious Gov. Sean Parnell has been running a high profile “Choose Respect” campaign against real domestic violence for some time now.

Brower has repeatedly said he can’t talk about ongoing cases, and even suggested that witness Darcy Ervin, whose father was offered that one-year plea deal when sex crime charges vanished, shouldn’t have talked about that case either before sentencing.

It’s time for the district attorney to start talking about the reasoning behind some of these odd decisions to prosecute or, in the Ervin case, to cut a deal. It’s starting to look like the wheels of justice are attached to a runaway train, and the risk that innocent people might get in the way has been demonstrated.

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