Trial for Auke Bay arson case ends in hung jury

State asks for Rickey Gottardi to be tried again

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

With jurors insisting they couldn't reach a verdict in his trial on Auke Bay arson charges, Rickey Gottardi returned to jail Thursday to await another trial.

After deliberating Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, the jury passed a note to Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks informing him they were deadlocked.

"We're not going to be able to reach a verdict," one man on the panel said in open court as each member in turn said they believed they could not come to agreement on a decision.

Gottardi, 45, continues to be held on felony charges of first-degree arson and first-degree criminal damage, in connection with the fire that burned DeHart's Marina in the early hours of Sept. 21. He also is charged with misdemeanor oil pollution related to a fuel spill in the wake of the fire.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner told Weeks he plans to retry the case. Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells said he preferred not to wait long because his client remains in custody.

Weeks tentatively scheduled the new trial to begin May 31. He thanked the jurors who listened to the evidence this week before telling them they were free to go.

The judge did not ask jurors how they were divided or what the substance of their disagreements were.

Jurors approached by reporters on their way out of the courthouse Thursday declined to comment. They heard testimony for parts of each of the previous three days.

Gardner presented evidence that the fire was set by igniting fuel lines under the dock and that the fire put firefighters at risk. Witnesses testified that damages to the marina topped $18,000 and cleanup of Auke Bay exceeded $100,000.

The prosecutor also called as witnesses the man who lived with Gottardi on his boat moored in Auke Bay and another bay resident who testified to alleged statements and actions by Gottardi before and after the fire.

Both of the witnesses had criminal records.

Wells alleged that those two witnesses started the fire. He called six witnesses, four of whom are currently lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center along with Gottardi. Another defense witness said he left the state prison in February.

Wells argued that his witnesses had more credibility because they had nothing to gain by testifying.

After speaking with jurors, attorneys said they couldn't comment on the case because another trial is coming up.

Wells, who handles court-appointed cases throughout Alaska, said the attorneys will have to review their cases and start over.

"I respect the jury's decision," Gardner said.

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



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