Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

Mother, grandmother summoned to court for teens' driving citations

ANGOON - Alaska State Troopers reported Friday that they charged a mother and later a grandmother here last week with allowing unlicensed teens to drive their vehicles.

On April 11, troopers received a report of an accident on Kootnhoo Road, in which they determined a 17-year-old girl had lost control of a vehicle and rolled into the ditch.

The girl reportedly received minor injuries, as did her 14-year-old brother, who was a passenger. The girl was cited on charges of driving without a license, having no vehicle insurance and not wearing a seatbelt.

Troopers reported issuing a summons to the girl's 52-year-old mother to court for allowing an unauthorized person to drive. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $3,000.

The next day, a 16-year-old boy was involved in an accident in Angoon, troopers reported. They issued him a summons for violating his instructional permit.

After determining the boy's grandmother had allowed him to drive, troopers issued her a court summons on a charge of permitting an unauthorized person to drive.

Court backs Tanana Chiefs in tax dispute

FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks North Star Borough has lost an appeal in which it sought to charge a Native nonprofit corporation property taxes on part of its downtown office and other buildings.

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled this month that certain pieces of Tanana Chiefs Conference property are exempt from borough taxes because they are used for charitable purposes.

The 4-1 decision ends a seven-year legal battle between the borough and the Tanana Chiefs on the majority of the corporation's six-story downtown building, a second building, and the Paul Williams House, a residential facility for mentally ill patients.

The ruling means the organization does not have to pay $267,000 in property taxes borough officials said were owed since 1997.

Conn. senator disputes Alaska claim to riverbed

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman is challenging the Interior Department's decision to recognize Alaska's ownership of a riverbed in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Lieberman, D-Conn., wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton in early April asking why the department overrode comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge. The service said Alaska had not presented enough evidence to prove that the Grayling Fork, off the upper Black River, was navigable and therefore should belong to the state.

Lieberman, who sought the Democratic nomination for president this year, said the federal decision could set a precedent for "hundreds, possibly thousands of additional claims."

Representatives of the Bureau of Land Management said the decision was sound and based on well-established criteria.

Judges toss appeal of man who says he was stopped improperly

ANCHORAGE - An Alaska State Trooper had plenty of reasons for stopping a Fairbanks driver at a traffic signal and eventually charging him with felony drunken driving, according to the Alaska Court of Appeals.

Richard Wallace, 37, was stopped in June 2001 and eventually pleaded no contest to felony drunken driving with the proviso that he could appeal the question of whether his traffic stop was legal.

Trooper Lawrence Erickson originally sought Wallace after a caller said a man in a car matching his description and driving on the Steese Highway may have been fighting with a woman inside.

The state trooper pulled up behind Wallace at an intersection and noticed him apparently engaged in sexual contact with the woman.

According to the judgment, the light turned green at the intersection and Wallace did not move the vehicle "for a few seconds." Then he sat back up and started to drive away. Erickson turned on his patrol lights, and Wallace stopped after about a block.

In a unanimous decision, the Appeals Court judges said the trooper had a legal right to stop the car and ask questions about possible domestic violence even if the couple was no longer fighting.

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