Teens charged in store burglary

Witness's call to police results in arrests after Liquor Cache break-in

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Three cases of Budweiser could cost two teenagers up to 11 years in prison if they are found guilty of breaking into a downtown liquor store to steal them early Monday.

Benjamin Finau and Aaron Brown, both 19, faced felony charges Monday in Juneau District Court less than 11 hours after they were arrested in what Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt described as a "smash and grab" theft. He alleged the defendants left Alaska Liquor Cache, 156 S. Franklin St., with three cases of beer.

While recommending bail, Schmidt also said Finau poses a possible danger to the community because he was charged last fall in a crime the prosecutor described as similar.

Court records show Finau also was charged with second-degree burglary stemming from a Sept. 23 incident at Elks Lodge 2634 in Haines. An additional misdemeanor theft charge alleged he left the lodge with more than $50 worth of liquor.

Last year's burglary charge was reduced to misdemeanor trespassing, for which he was found guilty, along with third-degree theft. For each charge, Finau was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail with 180 additional days suspended.

Monday District Judge Keith Levy told Finau and Brown that they were charged with felony counts of second-degree burglary and third-degree criminal mischief, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. Each of the defendants also faces a misdemeanor theft charge, which carries a possible sentence of one year.

Levy set bail at $10,000 for Finau and $7,500 for Brown. He also appointed attorneys to represent each at future proceedings after each said he could not afford his own.

Because the defendants were charged with felonies, they were not asked to enter pleas in District Court.

Police reported the two were arrested after a downtown resident called to report a burglary in progress. The caller reported hearing glass breaking and seeing two men leaving a liquor store carrying several cases of beer.

A second caller reported that two suspects were walking up Carroll Way, police said. Officers arrested Finau and Brown below Gastineau Avenue.

"We definitely commend anybody who called police," said Paul Thomas, owner of Alaska Liquor Cache. "We have a good community in the downtown area. They definitely came to our aid."

His store hasn't had such as burglary in a long time, he said, but he knows there are other stores, downtown and elsewhere in Juneau, that have been the scene of similar crimes.

Thomas said his business and many others have security in place. He has already turned over video from his store to police, he said.

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

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