Former lawmaker Albert Kookesh says he and two other men charged with overfishing intend to again appeal the charges. The Alaska Court of Appeals on Dec. 27 reinstated the charges against Kookesh, Rocky Estrada and Stanley Johnson after the men had succeeded in having the charges dismissed by a Sitka district court judge in 2010. A fourth man cited, Scott Hunter, did not appeal the citation. The citations carry a $500 fine.
After the charges were reinstated, the men had 10 days to appeal. Kookesh said it wasn’t enough time, especially without access to the attorney who represented the men since the beginning. The group’s former attorney, Tony Strong, was disbarred last June for misconduct in an unrelated case.
“With ten days, (this is) all we can do right now and of course we have to find a new attorney,” Kookesh said.
The men were cited July 12, 2009, off the beach in Kanalku Bay near Angoon. A state wildlife trooper reported that the men had collected 148 sockeye salmon but only had permits for a total of 75 fish. The men maintain that they did nothing wrong. Kookesh wants to see the case have an effect on how subsistence is managed in Alaska.
Kookesh recently announced publicly that he will be stepping down as Sealaska’s board chair in June, citing health reasons. In October, he didn’t seek to be re-elected as co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
Kookesh served as a state representative from 1997 until 2005, and then as a state senator until 2013. Kookesh suffered a heart attack in March of last year and he says as a result he’s been taking on fewer commitments.
Kookesh said there were no plans yet on how to fund the case, either with help from Sealaska or the Alaska Federation of Natives.
“We’ve come this far...” Kookesh said. “Why wouldn’t we challenge them?”