Bill would ban soft drink sales in schools
JUNEAU - Children wouldn't be able to buy sugary soft drinks at schools under a bill introduced Wednesday.
House Bill 80 would prohibit the sale of carbonated drinks and drinks that contain 42 or more grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving. They couldn't be sold on school grounds between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a school day.
The bill makes an exception for soft drinks that contain at least 50 percent fruit juice.
Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, introduced the measure, which is co-sponsored by a retired dentist, Rep. Hugh "Bud" Fate, a Fairbanks Republican; and by Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican.
The bill was referred to the Labor and Commerce and Health Education and Social Services Committees.
Murkowski lauds new tourism venture
JUNEAU - It wasn't a commercial, but Gov. Frank Murkowski gave a strong endorsement to a plan by an Anchorage-based tourism company to begin nonstop flights from Tokyo.
Standing beside a poster of the company's logo Wednesday, Murkowski held a press conference at the Capitol to announce plans by Alaskan Vacations to begin flights in August to test whether the market will sustain year-round service.
The company, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Vacations, plans four once-weekly flights during the peak of the summer tourism season in Japan. The governor said he will encourage the state Department of Community and Economic Development to assist the company in marketing the project.
"The reason we held the press conference and endorsed it was because we wanted to promote this kind of entrepreneurial business," spokesman John Manly said.
The company plans to make four round-trip flights to Haneda Tokyo International Airport using DC-10s capable of carrying up to 355 passengers, said company executive David Karp.
FBI seeks fourth man in counterfeiting scam
ANCHORAGE - FBI agents are seeking a fourth man they say is connected to a counterfeit check-cashing ring that bilked banks out of more than $100,000 using bogus state checks, the agency said.
Investigators say Gerald Steven Reeves Jr. may have left the state. He is wanted on charges of bank fraud. Alleged check-cashing cohorts Edward Bailey, Aaron Sharpe and Richard Austin were arrested in late January and face the same charges.
Reeves cashed phony checks at banks and check-cashing businesses at least 11 times in July for more than $30,000, according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court. With aliases, Reeves used fake state treasury warrants.
The warrants are the kind of checks the state uses to pay bills, said the Alaska Department of Revenue.
Bailey told the FBI after his arrest that Austin had made a fake identification card for Reeves. Austin and Sharpe had Reeves cash the checks they created, Bailey said.
Bailey said he met Austin and Sharpe in prison, the complaint says. Sharpe supplied copies of original checks from friends, Austin used a computer and laser printer to make the copies, and Bailey cashed them, according to the complaint.
Employees at KeyBank, the bank the state government uses, discovered the phony checks in July and again in December. They spotted inconsistencies and alerted the state's Treasury Division.
Grand jury indicts man accused of murder
ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man has been indicted by a state grand jury in the bludgeoning murder of his girlfriend last month.
William Willett faces charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Lorene Boehly, the Anchorage district attorney's office said. Boehly's body was found Jan. 22 in the East Anchorage condominium the two shared. Police said Willett hit Boehly, a counselor for the Department of Veteran's Affairs, over the head with a frying pan so violently that the pan shattered. He then took her car to buy drugs and alcohol, police said.
District Attorney Susan Parkes said Wednesday that Boehly had been talking to police about a theft and forgery investigation against Willett. Boehly was supposed to talk to police again on the day her body was found.
Willett, who survived an attempted drug overdose, is being held at the Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility on $100,000 bail.
Judges refuses venue change in Mateu trial
KETCHIKAN - Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins has turned down a prosecution request to move the murder trial of 19-year-old Jose "Che" Mateu out of Ketchikan.
Mateu is charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. Two previous trials in Ketchikan resulted in hung juries.
District Attorney Richard Svobodny of Juneau on Tuesday said it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in Ketchikan. He said pretrial publicity, even if not sensational or inaccurate, was a reason to move the trial. Many of the prospective jurors knew there were two previous trials, Svobodny said, a fact the judge has instructed not be brought up at trial.
Fifty-four of 61 of the potential jury members have said they had seen or heard something about the case previously.
Assistant public defender Julia Moudy said the state cannot shop for a new venue because it was unable to get a guilty verdict in Ketchikan.
Collins said that all things being equal, any case that occurs in Ketchikan should be tried in Ketchikan to serve the interests of the witnesses, defendant and community.
Avalanche closes Seward Highway
ANCHORAGE - An avalanche shut down the Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood on Wednesday and caused power outages in several communities.
The state Department of Transportation was doing avalanche control along the highway when the slide occurred near Bird Flat at about 11 a.m. The department had the road reopened several hours later.
According to Chugach Electric, the avalanche caused structural damage to an electrical line. Power was knocked out to Girdwood, Indian, Bird and Hope. Also, the Whittier Tunnel was closed temporarily because of the power outage.
Mother charged with helping man rape girl
ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage woman has been indicted on charges she helped her husband repeatedly rape her 12-year-old daughter, according to documents filed this week in Superior Sourt.
The man, who is the child's stepfather, was charged in September with multiple counts of first-degree sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor. He had fled the state but was caught late last year in Missouri by federal marshals, Anchorage Police Detective Dave Parker said Wednesday.
The man, who is 31, is in custody at Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility. His wife, 30, was charged with several counts of sexual abuse of a minor and is being held at the Anchorage Jail. The girl, now 13, is in foster care.
She said she had been beaten by her parents, Parker wrote in an affidavit filed in court in September 2002. The girl bore the marks of a beating, Parker wrote. After both parents admitted striking her, the girl was placed in foster care.
In July, the girl's court-appointed guardian told police she had been sexually abused.
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