Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Police look for alleged credit card thief

JUNEAU - Police searched unsuccessfully early Monday for a man suspected of credit card theft, after officers pursued the man into a Dredge Lakes area cul-de-sac.

The suspect reportedly left the 1984 Honda Prelude he was driving and fled into the woods at 1:30 a.m. Monday. Police said his empty Honda rolled into a parked 1999 Dodge Durango, inflicting $200 in damage to the Dodge's rear bumper.

An officer began pursuing the Honda at 1:21 a.m. in the Mendenhall Valley, because the driver was suspected of stealing a credit card. The Honda did not stop at the officer's direction.

In the cul-de-sac, the suspect and a 22-year-old passenger attempted to flee. Police apprehended the passenger, whom they interviewed and released.

They searched the woods and the surrounding neighborhood but did not find the driver.

The investigation is continuing. The Honda was seized as evidence.

Cross-dressing burglar agrees to guilty plea

JUNEAU - A man charged with first-degree burglary after his October arrest in woman's clothes has agreed to plead guilty to a less serious felony.

Brian L. Abbott, 34, has almost finished serving the five months in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center that the agreement calls for, said his attorney, Robert Meachum, and Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen in court Monday.

Police arrested Abbott at a Mendenhall Valley grocery store on Oct. 28. They concluded that the blue fleece shirt, jeans, running shoes and red underwear he was wearing belonged to the wife of a man who reported that someone broke into his residence, near Industrial Avenue, that evening.

The victim told police the man's dirty clothing had been left in a closet of the home. Two $2 bills also were reported missing.

Abbott pleaded guilty Monday to one count of second-degree burglary. The agreement dismisses a misdemeanor third-degree theft charge.

Monday's plea also resolves a misdemeanor case in which Abbott was accused of first-degree criminal trespass and fourth-degree criminal mischief between Oct. 13 and Oct. 22 in a Glacier Highway building. Abbott pleaded guilty to trespassing, with the other charge dismissed.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins scheduled sentencing for Wednesday, when possible restitution will be discussed.

The agreement on the second-degree burglary charge calls for 18 months in jail with 14 months suspended. For trespassing, it calls for an additional 180 days in jail with 150 suspended. The agreement also places Abbott on probation for four years.

As a condition of probation, Collins required Abbott to seek housing through a local social agency.

Mad cow scare limits size of Alaska herds

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's long-struggling dairy industry is facing a mad cow dilemma: With the Canadian border closed to cattle imports and exports, herds can't expand.

When Kyle Beus and his family bought a long-vacant dairy farm in Palmer in 2000, their plan was to gradually build up their herd over the first three summers, topping out at around 350 to 400 cows by last summer. That's how many Beus said he needs to make a profit.

He brought in about 150 head in 2001 and another 125 in 2002, all of them from Canada.

Then, in early summer 2003, as Beus was about to bring in his cows for that year, the United States banned all imports of Canadian cattle after a case of mad cow disease was reported.

By last fall, U.S. and Canadian agriculture officials came up with an answer that would work for Beus. Cows from the Lower 48 could be trucked through Canada to Alaska with close monitoring by government officials and strict rules on where and when the stock could be let out of the trucks for feeding and watering.

It would cost more - about $400 per head compared with $175 - and Beus would be a year behind schedule. But it was an alternative.

Then officials discovered a case of mad cow in Washington in December. The Canadians banned U.S. cattle from crossing the border. And there's no telling when it will be open again.

So Beus is stuck at 225 cows - and only 185 are productive.

"Something has got to give," Beus said. "I don't have deep enough pockets to incur the losses."

Bill aims to loosen high school exit exam rules

ANCHORAGE - Students would be allowed to graduate from high school without passing the exit exam, under a bill sponsored by state Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell.

She is the fourth legislator, and the first Republican, to introduce such legislation.

Wilson's plan would create three different diplomas: one for students who fail the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam but meet other graduation requirements; an enhanced diploma for those who meet requirements and pass the test; and an advanced diploma for students who do both and pass honors-level courses.

Alaska seniors this year are the first required to pass the exam in reading, writing and math to get a diploma. Roughly one fourth of the state's 8,700 seniors have not passed, according to the state Department of Education and Early Development. Many of those students took the test again last week and will find out in May how they scored.

It's expected that hundreds will be denied diplomas. Wilson doesn't think that's right. Nor do Sen. Gretchen Guess and Reps. Les Gara and Harry Crawford. The three Anchorage Democrats also are sponsoring bills to relieve some or all students from the exit exam requirement.

"I very strongly believe in fairness," said Wilson, who chairs the Health, Education and Social Services Committee. "And if we can do something that is fair for everyone, we should do it."

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