FAIRBANKS — An Ester gold miner has been sentenced to six months in jail for building an unauthorized mining road and intentionally damaging another person’s mining equipment.
During sentencing Monday, Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy also ordered Kevin Bergman, 48, to pay more than $40,000 in restitution.
McConahy gave him time to get his affairs in order, giving him until Sept. 1 to report to jail, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Bergman was convicted in November of two counts of criminal mischief. He has maintained his innocence.
McConahy said he agreed with prosecutors that Bergman’s actions were among the worst examples of criminal mischief and he was “guarded” about Bergman’s rehabilitation potential, in part because he hasn’t taken responsibility for his actions.
At sentencing, Bergman said Alaska State Troopers have treated him unfairly by not investigating a rival miner he accused of vandalizing his property. He also claimed rival miners have assaulted him and approached him with heavy artillery and equipment.
“I’m tired of being threatened with machine guns, I’m tired of being threatened with bulldozers, and I’m tired of being beat up,” he said with a quivering voice. “I’m tired of a lot of stuff, and I’m only going to the police begging for help and they fail to come because they premeditated that they’re going to take my claim.”
Prosecutor Andrew Baldock said troopers did investigate Bergman’s complaint and found one damaged sluice box but no indication of when it was damaged. He said Bergman’s conspiratorial accounts suggest he needs a mental health evaluation.
“Mr. Bergman has blamed the Department of Natural Resources, he’s blamed the district attorney’s office, he’s blamed the Alaska State Troopers. He’s said the feds are involved at some time, he’s blamed (Superior Court Judge Robert) Downes, he’s blamed everybody,” Baldock said. “Mr. Bergman needs to look in the mirror, and once he does that he can see who’s to blame.”
Bergman also spoke of his nonprofit enterprise, Charity Wheels, through which he repairs vehicles and gives them to the poor. Bergman said at its height, he donated 58 vehicles in 2 1/2 hours.
Bergman said if he went to jail, the program would likely fall apart.
“This is not going through the motions. This is someone who makes community service a central part of his life,” his public defender, Jonathan Bidderman, said. “I don’t know how the state (the prosecutor) can say with a straight face that he belongs behind bars.”