Assault gets man 4-month sentence

Former Radio Shack manager says he 'snapped' and feels 'terrible about it'

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A former manager of the Nugget Mall Radio Shack said Tuesday he was "blown away" by a sentence that orders him to serve four months in jail for assault at the store.

"I am not a racist," said 46-year-old James White, who left Juneau after a Feb. 25 incident for which he was charged with misdemeanor assault amid public consternation over his alleged treatment of a Native Alaskan customer.

In Juneau District Court Tuesday, he also told Judge Kevin Miller he wouldn't return to Juneau, though his family owns the Juneau store. "They ran me out of town."

The man he assaulted at the store in February said a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine would serve as "minimal deterrent" for his attack.

"I thought I was going to be killed," Fred Hiltner said.

The Harborview Elementary School teacher said that in the store he asked White if, among other questions, he had kicked two youths out of the store earlier that day because they were Native.

"I never used the word (racist)," Hiltner said. "My wife never used the word."

"That is a blatant lie," White said, given one last chance to speak from across the courtroom.

Hiltner said White struck him in the face and head about 20 times while he refused to fight back. His shoulder has never healed and could require surgery, keeping him from canoeing, rock climbing and skiing, he said. He has suffered psychologically, he said.

"I snapped," White said. "I feel terrible about it."

He also said he was the one who called the police. He said he held Hiltner down but denied hitting him repeatedly in the face.

He entered a no-contest plea to the charge in June. Sentencing was last scheduled to be held in December but was postponed as White considered withdrawing his plea.

Miller, a Ketchikan judge presiding in the case, said a sentence of year in jail, or even eight months, would not be upheld by the Alaska Court of Appeals. As White's attorney, Louis Menendez had pointed out, White had no criminal record.

The judge ordered White to serve four months in jail and suspended an additional four months. He placed him on probation for four years and ordered him to be screened for anger-management counseling. Restitution for Hiltner's injuries, which the victim said have already cost $6,000 and could exceed $10,000, will be determined at a later hearing.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen argued that the assault was severe enough that it could have been tried as a felony, a position disputed by Menendez.

"I don't doubt, Mr. White, you were under pressure," Miller said. He described the assault as "clearly aggressive."

Miller said the attack on Hiltner was unprovoked, and unlike a person who is pushed too far in a barroom confrontation, his job required him to work with the public.

Menendez said that because the Department of Corrections could place White at a halfway house during his sentence, he could be back working at the store during that time.

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