Woman awarded civil judgment in '01 assault

Jury directs assailant to pay his victim $75,000 in damages and $135,000 in punitive damages

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A man sentenced to jail after pleading no contest to assaulting a neighbor in Tenakee Springs in 2001 has been ordered to pay the woman more than $142,000 in civil damages.

But the same jury ordered the woman to pay $35,000 to the man she accused of being his accomplice.

The jury required Merle Wilson to pay Judy MacDonald $75,000 in damages and assessed him $135,000 in punitive damages, half of which go to the state of Alaska.

The civil suit was filed in 2003 by MacDonald against Wilson and Jack Riggs, stemming from a dispute over Chichagof Island community's ban on motor vehicles. She was using a motorized wheelbarrow.

MacDonald claimed she was in fear for her life and that Wilson hit her with a logging chain. Wilson continued to deny her version of events at trial.

MacDonald also sued Riggs, who she claimed threatened her with a gun during the assault.

Wilson was sentenced to serve six months in jail after agreeing to plead no contest to second-degree assault. Originally, he faced a charge of first-degree assault. Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks suspended the rest of a four-year sentence.

Juneau attorney Z. Kent Sullivan represented MacDonald. Wilson and Riggs represented themselves at the jury trial early in the month in Juneau before Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Michael Thompson.

Wilson's attorney at the criminal trial, Thomas Nave, wrote in a presentence brief that Wilson believed he was forced to defend himself.

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

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