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Former Juneau Assembly member Dwight Perkins avoided jail time today on his conviction for misdemeanor harassment, but was described by the prosecutor and his victim as a sexual offender whose conduct has bordered on felonious.
District Judge Peter Froehlich imposed the maximum 90 days in jail, but suspended 60 days of it, with the remaining 30 days to be performed as community work service for a nongovernmental agency. He also fined Perkins $1,000, ordered him to pay up to $3,900 in restitution for his victim's counseling, and placed him on three years' probation.
Froehlich made ongoing counseling a condition of Perkins' probation and directed him to get an evaluation of whether he should be treated as a sex offender.
The case stemmed from an Oct. 1 incident in which Perkins fondled a woman's breast without her consent and told her he wanted to have sex with her.
The victim, whose name is confidential under state law, chose to identify herself in making a courtroom statement before Perkins' sentencing.
Aleeza St. Clair said the incident occurred before a meeting of a 12-step recovery program, which caused her to lose trust in the safety of that forum and which has "jeopardized my recovery."
St. Clair said she had considered Perkins a friend but called him "sexually sick" for what he did. As a top official at the state Department of Labor for several years, Perkins understood the impact of his actions, she said.
"I pray that no one will ever again suffer by his actions," St. Clair said.
District Attorney Rick Svobodny said Perkins was "just lucky" that he had been charged only with harassment. Under state law, the felony charge of sexual assault in the second degree requires the element of coercion "by the use of force," he said, calling it a distinction that "may be one that only a lawyer can understand."
Svobodny also said sealed affidavits from four other women indicate Perkins has been engaged in such conduct on numerous occasions over at least four and a half years. Although the accusers weren't identified, the prosecutor said the reported incidents included Perkins taking a woman's hand and placing it on his crotch, forcing a woman into the corner of an elevator and running his hand along a woman's inner thigh during "staff meetings."
While several "friends in high places" wrote character references for Perkins to the court, "It's really sad ... (that) not one person thought for one moment about the victims of Mr. Perkins," Svobodny said.
Defense attorney Thomas Nave said that if a more serious charge could have been brought, it would have been.
Nave also said Perkins has had a difficult life, after being molested and neglected by "a raging alcoholic stepfather" through high school and overcoming his own alcohol problem, remaining sober without a single slip since going into treatment eight years ago.
Froehlich said Perkins' chances for rehabilitation, along with his previously clean record, were factors weighing against jail time.
Perkins acknowledged to the court that he has had "boundary issues" and will deal with them.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.