Charges change in church standoff case

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

James Onstott, accused in a six-plus hour standoff at a local church last Sunday evening, faces lesser charges than originally filed against him.

After his arrest, the Juneau Police Department charged Onstott with first-degree burglary, first-degree stalking, five counts of terroristic threatening, and second-degree misconduct involving weapons.

At his arraignment this week, the District Attorney's office changed the charges to four counts of third-degree assault, which carry lesser penalties than the first-degree charges. Those charges supplant the police charges, said public defender David Seid, who represents Onstott.

Third-degree assault is a Class C felony. The penalty for each count would be a jail sentence of up to five years, Seid said. That means the maximum sentence Onstott could receive, if convicted on all charges, is 20 years.

Onstott was arraigned Monday and appeared in District Court again Thursday.

Moving with difficulty because of a knee injury, Onstott walked into court handcuffed to several other defendants. He rocked in his chair and nodded his head through most of the proceedings.

District Judge Peter Froehlich noted that he had asked for but had not received a professional mental health evaluation of Onstott. He scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 19.

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