Charges of threatening dismissed in Kmart case

Posted: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The state has dismissed charges of witness-threatening against the man convicted in the 2002 Kmart theft.

Frank Brian Rowcroft, 29, was convicted in November for first-degree theft. Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins in February ordered him to serve 212 years in prison. She also ordered him to pay Kmart nearly $100,000 in restitution to replace the cash, checks and credit card receipts reported missing from the safe on March 31, 2002.

On the eve of the trial, police arrested Rowcroft on two counts of interfering with official proceedings, each carrying the same potential punishment as the theft charge. The interference charges alleged Rowcroft made threats against a summoned witness, Marie Ehlers, in April and December of 2002.

"At the present time, we can't locate the witnesses we would need for the trial," Senior Attorney Richard Svobodny, the prosecutor who signed the dismissal, said Tuesday.

Rowcroft's attorney, Louis Menendez, filed a motion Thursday to dismiss the indictment, requesting a hearing on the matter.

He argued that the only witness to the allegations was the person his client was accused of threatening. She did not tell authorities of the threatening telephone calls until she was detained in Bellingham, Wash., on the eve of trial, Menendez noted. She had left Juneau on an Alaska Marine Highway ferry the week before trial, at which she was summoned to testify.

"The grand jury was misled," he wrote.

Noting that Rowcroft wasn't arrested until May 2002, he explained that there was no evidence that the defendant was aware there would be any official proceedings against him in April or that Ehlers would be a witness.

Ehlers testified at the theft trial after Juneau authorities returned her to Alaska. She said she had handed Rowcroft the keys to the Kmart safe in the early hours of March 31, 2002. She also told the jury that she believed Rowcroft had threatened her.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at ony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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