Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bail set at $21,000 for sexual-abuse suspect

JUNEAU - Bail has been set at $21,000 for a man charged with sex crimes against a child, Juneau District Magistrate John W. Sivertsen said Wednesday.

Samuel A. Johnson, 43, appeared in Juneau District Court on one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The police investigation began Monday after officers were notified that a 15-year-old girl had been sexually abused.

Police concluded Johnson had sexual contact with the girl. They arrested him and lodged him at the state prison.

The charges allege the sexual contact took place in August. Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen requested bail be set at $10,000. City prosecutor James Douglas requested an additional $500 for a charge alleging Douglas violated his probation for a previous misdemeanor conviction.

Sivertsen said that considering the charges and Johnson's record, he believed bail should be set at $20,000 for the new felony charges and $1,000 for the allegation that Johnson violated his probation.

February sentencing set for Angoon murder

JUNEAU - Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks scheduled a Feb. 4 hearing on Wednesday to sentence an Angoon woman found guilty of second-degree murder in the July 2003 death of her domestic partner.

A jury found Denni Starr, 24, guilty in September in the death of Richard "Buddy" George Jr., who died from a knife wound in the Angoon home the two shared. Weeks presided over the trial in Sitka and confirmed Wednesday that a courtroom would be available Feb. 4.

Two December sentencing dates were postponed.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told Weeks he plans to call two to four witnesses at the hearing and expects his presentation will take two to three hours.

Defense attorney Steven Wells said he expects his presentation to take an hour.

ConocoPhillips drops out of ANWR group

ANCHORAGE - The largest oil company operating on Alaska's North Slope has dropped out of the lobbying group Arctic Power, whose sole purpose is to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips dropped its membership in Arctic Power in 2004, spokeswoman Dawn Patience said Wednesday.

The company provided the following statement:

"We have not been involved in the ANWR debate in many years and have focused our investment attention in Alaska toward the gas pipeline and development of other North Slope satellite fields. Since ANWR is currently closed to development, we feel that any resolution or pledge on our part would be moot."

Arctic Power said the issue was being raised by anti-development forces to coincide with the start of the new Congress.

"It is another grasp by the anti-development folks to change the focus from the true issue of responsible development of ANWR and debate the issues on its merits," said Kevin Hand, executive director of Arctic Power. "We see it as a transparent effort to negatively affect the ANWR debate with something that is quite dated."

Agrium confirms fertilizer plant closure

KENAI - Agrium will close its Nikiski fertilizer plant Nov. 1, taking with it 230 full-time, high-paying jobs.

Agrium spokeswoman Lisa Parker confirmed the closure Tuesday at a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The closure comes despite the best efforts of corporate officials to find a way to avoid it, Parker said.

Securing a viable, low-cost gas supply proved too high a hurdle for the company, which purchased the plant from Unocal in 2000. Almost from the beginning, the two companies were at odds over contractual obligations that included delivery of gas by Unocal to Agrium at a price that would permit Agrium to make a profit.

Agrium claimed Unocal failed to deliver sufficient gas and the dispute led to arbitration over some issues and court suits over others, eventually resulting in a settlement announced late last year.

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