House bill would more severely punish rapists
JUNEAU - Rapists who try to incapacitate their victims with drugs or alcohol could face tougher sentences if House Bill 297 becomes law.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, passed the House on Monday.
Under the bill, trying to weaken a victim by providing drugs or alcohol would be an aggravating factor to be considered at sentencing. Aggravating factors let judges increase sentences.
"When drugs or alcohol are used to lower the inhibitions of a person to a point where they become the victim of a sexual assault, the seriousness of the crime should be elevated in the eye of the court," Meyer said.
Meyer said the measure was prompted in part by some assailants' use of date-rape drugs, which make it difficult for victims to recall details of an assault.
The bill would apply to all sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor offenses. The House approved the measure unanimously. It now goes to the Senate.
Troopers investigate death of 23-year-old man in Port Heiden
DILLINGHAM - Alaska State Troopers in Dillingham are investigating the death of a 23-year-old man in Port Heiden. Nick Holm died late Friday after an apparent altercation with another individual at a drinking party, troopers said.
Holm was reportedly left face down on the floor following the fight. When attempts were made later in the evening to revive him, it was discovered that he was dead.
No arrests have been made. Troopers said Holm weighed about 450 pounds, and it is possible his weight contributed to his death.
Holm's body was taken to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy.
Pipeline suspect begins his federal trial in Fairbanks
FAIRBANKS - A federal trial got under way Monday for a man accused of shooting the trans-Alaska pipeline and spilling more than 285,000 gallons of crude oil.
A grand jury indicted Daniel Carson Lewis, 37, on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. If convicted, Lewis could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine on the federal charge. He also faces state charges.
Federal prosecutor Karen Loeffler told the 12-person jury in U.S. District Court that she will present evidence that Lewis possessed a rifle after being convicted of eight felonies between 1986 and 1994.
Lewis allegedly fired at the pipeline multiple times on Oct. 4 with a .338-caliber rifle. Troopers found four bullet strikes in the pipeline near the puncture 75 miles north of Fairbanks.
Loeffler said DNA evidence shows that Lewis' blood is on the rifle, the four-wheeler he was using and his clothes.
Defense attorney Sue Ellen Tatter said the evidence that the prosecution will present from Daniel Lewis' older brother, Randy Lewis, is shaky. She said Randy Lewis was intoxicated when he talked to authorities.
Joe Nosko of Doyon Security was the first witness to take the stand. He said he was flying a helicopter patrol with a pilot on Oct. 4 when he spotted two all-terrain vehicles near the pipeline and went down to investigate.
He said the rider on a four-wheeler sped off, but that the man on a three-wheeler, who identified himself as Randy Lewis, said his brother had threatened him with a rifle and shot a hole in the pipeline.
The cleanup so far has cost about $7 million, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.
Another snowmachiner died over the weekend
FAIRBANKS - A second snowmachiner died Saturday, bringing the number of fatalities associated with snowmobiles in Alaska to 12 this season, according to the Alaska State Troopers.
Gabriel Olympic, 61, of Illiamna succumbed to hypothermia Saturday while trying to reach New Stuyahok for a winter carnival there.
His wife, Katie, who is 62, was also on the machine, but she survived. She was flown to the Dillingham hospital and is expected to recover, troopers said.
As reported Monday, Kenneth Harvey, 33, of Fairbanks, was killed when he went off a trail while riding north of Fairbanks on Saturday.
Education officials gather in Juneau
JUNEAU - More than 100 educators and school board members from around the state have gathered in Juneau for the annual Association of Alaska School Boards Legislative Fly-In.
The group spent much of the day Monday lobbying legislators. Juneau School Board President Mary Becker, a member of the AASB board of directors, said one area of focus was maintaining school funding in the face of the state's fiscal difficulties.
"Our efforts have been pointed toward the fiscal gap ... and support for plans (to cover it) that will do no harm to schools," she said.
Another lobbying topic was increasing the state funding foundation.
Becker said she was pleased with the response from the people they visited.
"The legislators have been extremely receptive," she said. "They have made time to meet with us. ... We've had a number of them come and speak directly (to educators)."
Becker said members of the Juneau School Board will meet with Juneau legislators on Friday.