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Defense lawyer seeks mistrial in Yukon River arrest trial; prosecutor calls request 'radical'

Posted: April 6, 2011 - 9:27pm

FAIRBANKS — A lawyer in the trial of a man arrested for allegedly refusing to have his boat inspected on the Yukon River has called for a mistrial, saying the prosecutor inserted himself in the case by producing evidence.

Defense lawyer Bill Satterberg made the motion in federal court Tuesday on behalf of his client, 70-year-old Jim Wilde of Central. Wilde was arrested last fall and spent four days in jail in a case that has sparked debate on whether National Park Service rangers overstepped their authority.

Satterberg called for the mistrial after it was revealed that assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Cooper flew to the approximate site of the arrest a month ago and directed a ranger where to take four evidence photos.

For his part, Cooper described Satterberg’s request as “radical,” especially since there has been no dispute over where the arrest took place.

Federal magistrate Scott Oravec did not rule on the motion.

Wilde is charged with failing to stop for rangers for a boat safety check and swerving his riverboat at them while being pursued on the Yukon River between Eagle and Circle. That section of river flows through the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, which the park service manages.

Gov. Sean Parnell and Alaska’s congressional delegation contend the federal government does not have jurisdiction to enforce its regulations on state waterways.

Ranger Joe Dallemolle, one of the two rangers who arrested Wilde, testified Tuesday that he and fellow ranger Ben Grodjesk were conducting routine boat safety inspections when they encountered Wilde in his 21-foot riverboat, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Wilde refused to cooperate, cursed them out and sped away, Dallemolle said.

The two rangers chased him in their boat. Dallemolle testified that he drew both his pistol and a shotgun at different times and pointed them at Wilde while signaling and yelling for him to stop.

Once he did go to shore, Wilde continued cursing at him and Grodjesk, the ranger said. Wilde walked toward them with his fists clenched as if ready to fight, even as Dallemolle was pointing a shotgun at him, Dallemolle said.

It wasn’t until Grodjesk tackled Wilde and both he and Dallemolle threatened to use Tasers on Wilde, that he stopped resisting, he said.

In his opening statement, Satterberg described the park service as a “paramilitary organization” bent on showing people “who is boss on the Yukon River.”

He contends that Wilde refused to allow the boat inspection in the middle of the river because it was unsafe. Satterberg says Wilde was heading toward shore where it would be safer, not fleeing. He said Wilde never saw Dallemolle pointing a shotgun at him and was tackled by Grodjesk as he was attempting to set his boat anchor on shore.

Satterberg acknowledged that his client used “pretty colorful language” to express his feelings to rangers, but never posed enough of a threat for them to point guns at him.

“These weapons were not drawn for any danger to rangers,” Satterberg said. “They were drawn because somebody was not being a good boy doing what they told him to do.”

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