State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Man pleads guilty in sex assault

JUNEAU - A Juneau man pleaded guilty Monday in Juneau Superior Court to a charge that he had sex with a woman while she was passed out at a party in September.

Marcus Willard, 24, originally was charged with second-degree sexual assault, a felony, but pleaded guilty to the lesser felony charge of third-degree sexual assault.

If Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins accepts Willard's plea agreement with the state, he will serve four years in prison with two years suspended and two years of probation.

Six months of the prison time would stem from a probation violation because Willard was on probation for a prior felony burglary conviction when he committed the sexual assault. Willard also will have to register as a sex offender.

He is scheduled to be sentenced April 17.

Assistant District Attorney Sue McLean stated the facts of the case during the change of plea hearing Monday.

Around the morning of Sept. 15, Willard and Saul Toribio, 21, were at a party with the victim, whose name was not released.

The woman was drunk, and had passed out on a mattress, McLean said. The victim's friend saw Willard sitting on top of and fondling the victim, who was naked and unaware of what was happening. McLean said a medical test taken later that day showed evidence of a sexual assault.

Toribio pleaded guilty in February to third-degree sexual assault, a felony, and is scheduled to be sentenced April 9.

Bill would make adults liable for providing alcohol to kids

JUNEAU - Adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers could be liable for the damages those drinkers cause, under a bill approved by the House on Monday.

Rep. Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, said he introduced the bill because of a drunken-driving crash last year that killed three teen-agers and an Anchorage police officer. Two Anchorage men in their 30s were convicted of supplying alcohol to the teens.

Under House Bill 281, civil lawsuits could be filed against people who knowingly provide alcohol to minors who then cause property damage, injury or death because they were under the influence.

Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, said the bill could reduce teen drinking in rural Alaska, where bootleggers provide alcohol in dry villages.

The bill passed the House 37-0. It now goes to the Senate.

Snowmachiner dies Monday after striking moose

ANCHORAGE - A 39-year-old snowmachiner died Monday after a collision with a moose on a street in Aniak.

Alaska State Troopers identified the dead man as Nicholai P. Kelila of Chuathbaluk, a Kuskokwim River village 11 miles upriver from Aniak.

It brings the number of deaths associated with snowmobiles in Alaska this winter to 13.

Bill would stop school staff from recommending drugs

JUNEAU - A state Senate committee took testimony Monday on a bill that would prohibit school staff from recommending drugs to control children's behavior problems.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bettye Davis, an Anchorage Democrat, said as a school board member and a social worker she's heard complaints for several years about parents being pressured to put their children on drugs such as Ritalin.

Senate Bill 230 would require school districts to adopt policies prohibiting school staff from recommending drugs for students.

It would require that, if staff members think a student has behavioral or psychological problems, they send a letter to the parents recommending an evaluation by a doctor.

The measure also states that child-protection authorities cannot take children away from their parents based solely on the fact the parents refuse to give psychotropic drugs to the children.

Richard Benavides, an aide to Davis, said nationally the use of psychiatric drugs for schoolchildren more than doubled in the first half of the 1990s.

It's not clear how many students in Alaska take drugs for problems such as depression or attention deficit disorder, he said.

The committee took no action on the bill Monday. Davis said she intends to makes some changes in the bill and ask the committee to take it up again.

Court to review wireless dispute

FAIRBANKS - The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a dispute over the ownership of wireless phone frequencies, a conflict that has tied up millions of dollars belonging to several Alaska Native corporations, including Juneau-based Sealaska.

Conrad Bagne, head of Alaska Native Wireless in Anchorage, said his company welcomed the Supreme Court's review.

With the help of small-business and minority preferences, Alaska Native Wireless won ownership of numerous frequencies in major U.S. cities in an FCC auction in January 2001.

The sale was nullified when NextWave a company that had previously bought the frequencies but didn't pay for them won a court decision in July.

The FCC appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided Monday to take the case.

Doyon Ltd., Sealaska Corp. and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. the managing partner - put $260 million into Alaska Native Wireless.

Alaska Native Wireless' backer, however, is AT&T, with a $2.6 billion investment, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Alaska Native Wireless and other auction winners asked Congress last year to approve a settlement. They would have kept the wireless spectrum and paid their full original bid price, and the government would have paid about $6 billion to settle NextWave's claim. Several members of Congress objected, and the deal stalled.

The deal was only good until Dec. 31. So on Jan. 4, Alaska Native Wireless and several other spectrum winners asked the FCC to return their down payments.

The FCC still holds $544 million from Alaska Native Wireless, out of $3.1 billion from the auction winners.

The companies want their money back. The commission, they say, has held the money interest-free since February 2001, at a cost to the companies of "at least $430,000 a day and a total of at least $140 million through the date of this petition."

The Jan. 4 filing with the FCC indicates that the proposed settlement agreement has terminated.

Alaska Native Wireless still hopes to secure the wireless frequencies, said Bagne, who is also chief operating officer of Arctic Slope Regional Corp.

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