By the time Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines admitted to breaking federal pollution laws in Southeast waters, the company didn't have to worry about criminal charges coming from Alaska.
The state's statutes wouldn't allow the Department of Law to go after the cruise line in criminal court. Rather, the state's only recourse was to pursue Royal Caribbean through civil court.
Citing the case, Gov. Tony Knowles has introduced a one-sentence measure repealing two state statutes that prevent Alaska from prosecuting people or companies for crimes already prosecuted in federal or other states' courts.
House Bill 350 got its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon. It was sent to its next committee of referral after a brief legal discussion.
Assistant Attorney General Anne Carpeneti told the committee existing state law prohibited Alaska's criminal prosecution of both Royal Caribbean's admitted pollution and violations of state securities laws stemming from the World Plus scheme. That case involved a Fairbanks woman convicted in federal court last year for running a large-scale fraudulent airline ticket brokerage.
``Because of this statute, we were unable to prosecute under state statute,'' Carpeneti said.
Though the bill easily moved out of the Judiciary Committee, Anchorage Republican Rep. Norm Rokeberg expressed doubts about the measure.
He said the state can still use civil lawsuits, and worried prosecuting someone who's already been through the federal criminal justice system could lead to unfair, double-handed justice.
``In a nutshell, it's kicking a guy when he's down,'' he said. ``It's de facto double jeopardy.''
Royal Caribbean did avoid state criminal prosecution for admitted violations of state and federal pollution laws in Alaska waters during the mid '90s. But the state worked out a $3.5 million settlement with the cruise line stemming from a civil lawsuit.
Following federal criminal prosecution, Royal Caribbean agreed to pay $6.5 million for violations in Alaska waters. That was a part of a larger agreement in which the cruise line paid $18 million in fines after admitting to 21 felony violations of federal environmental law in six U.S. jurisdictions.
Rep. Eric Croft, an Anchorage Democrat, said the state should be able to make its own decision about whether to file criminal charges against a person or company. Alaska's prosecutors, he said, should make such decisions based on the state's criteria, not just give up that right to prosecutors representing federal interests or those of other states.
``It is a point of discretion,'' Croft said.
The measure's next stop is the House Finance Committee.
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