Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, March 05, 2006

Man charged with assaulting teen rider

JUNEAU - A 43-year-old Juneau man was charged with felony assault after alleged actions on a city bus involving a 15-year-old girl.

Phillip Dutton was arrested on a charge of third-degree assault and lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional center after police investigated a report from the alleged victim Thursday. The girl reported in the afternoon that while riding a Capital Transit bus, a man she didn't know grabbed her by the throat and threatened her. She reported that the man got off the bus in the 5000 block of Glacier Highway in the Lemon Creek area and walked north.

Police are asking any witnesses to the alleged event to call the department at 586-0600 and ask to speak with an officer.

Appeals court upholds St. Clair's sentence

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Court of Appeals upheld Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks' sentence ordering Aaron St. Clair to serve 35 years in prison for a 2004 slashing attack on taxi driver Eric Drake.

St. Clair was 21 when Weeks sentenced him in January 2005, imposing a 50-year sentence with 15 years suspended and 10 years to serve on probation after his release from custody. St. Clair had agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder, a charge that carries a sentencing range of five to 99 years in prison.

He appealed Weeks' sentence, claiming it was "excessive," in part, because of his youth.

St. Clair attacked Drake with a knife during a robbery on Jan. 7, 2004, slashing his throat and stabbing him in the chest and abdomen. Weeks said in court he believed St. Clair intended to kill Drake and "it was merely fortuitous that Drake did not die." Weeks justified the sentence by citing crimes St. Clair was never charged with as part of his plea agreement.

Juneau police uncovered evidence that St. Clair had sexually assaulted three minor girls on separate occasions, had committed three other robberies, including another armed robbery of a taxi driver and a robbery of a mentally impaired man who offered to buy food for St. Clair and his wife, according to the appellate ruling.

Police also found evidence that he helped plan a 2003 armed robbery at the Glacier Cinema and was upset that he was left out of a share of the loot after it was committed without him.

Weeks said St. Clair's anger in that instance brought into doubt his prospects for rehabilitation, despite his youth.

State asks Congress for land for university

JUNEAU - The Alaska House has asked the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would transfer 250,000 acres of federal land in Alaska to the University of Alaska.

The federal bill, by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is meant to match last year's hotly contested state legislation that allowed the transfer of 250,000 acres of state land to the university.

But Murkowski's bill has been stuck in a subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, proposed an amendment on Friday that would ask Congress to include a provision in the bill that says the federal land grants may not interfere with public access to fishing streams or hunting, mining and recreational trails.

But Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, said while he appreciated Gara's sentiment, he feared the provision could be used as an excuse to further delay the bill. He said the state could make such a stipulation once the land is conveyed.

Gara pointed out that the federal legislation would transfer the land directly to the university, leaving the state with no say how the lands are used.

Gara's amendment failed by a vote of 25-4. The joint resolution passed by a vote of 26-3. It now goes to the Senate.

Couple sentenced in cocaine case

FAIRBANKS - A couple who sold drugs from both their home and restaurant will each serve 612 years in federal prison.

Veronica Espino, 41, also known as Mariana Espino, and her husband, David Maceda-Sosa, 29, were sentenced Friday.

The couple, who owned the El Mariachi Restaurant, were charged with possession with intent to distribute after investigators found 4 pounds of cocaine and $27,000 cash at her home in February 2005.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline said he received more than 30 letters testifying to Espino's character, but said the couple's drug deals were not a one-time event.

However, Beistline agreed to reduce their prison terms from the 10-year minimum sentence required under federal law.

An informant bought cocaine from the couple, prompting an investigation that took months.

Investigators gathered evidence from trash that sat on a curb outside their home and obtained a search warrant. Agents from multiple agencies, including the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, searched the couple's home and found cocaine in a backpack hidden outside, in a downstairs closet and in a master bedroom closet.

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