Opening arguments were expected to begin today in the trial of a Sitka couple accused of luring young girls to a remote island and sexually abusing them repeatedly.
Jury selection began Monday and continued this morning in Juneau Superior Court.
According to court records, defense attorneys for Cynthia Sky, 40, and Dick Blue Sky, 48, asked for the trial to be moved to Juneau because they believed pre-trial publicity would prevent the couple from getting a fair trial in Sitka.
The Skys together face 37 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, an unclassified felony. Dick Blue Sky is charged with nine additional counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, felony failure to register as a sex offender, and one count of felony misconduct involving weapons.
The charges against the couple stem from alleged multiple acts of sex abuse against three girls, who ranged in age from 10 to 13 when the alleged abuse took place from 1994 to 2001. Their names are not being released.
The couple was arrested Feb. 15, 2001, and later pleaded innocent to all counts.
District Attorney Rick Svobodny laid out his argument in court records:
The Skys befriended the parents of two of the girls, gaining their trust. The Skys would offer to take the girls on trips to Bauer Island, 50 miles north of Sitka. Once on the island, the couple allegedly would ask the girls to join a "club," for which the initiation involved numerous sexual acts performed by the girls on the couple. Punishment for failure to perform the acts included putting the girls in a makeshift stockade the couple built on the island, prosecutors allege.
According to the court records, the couple also had weapons on the island.
Svobodny alleged the abuse continued with the first two girls until a third girl, 13, was asked to the island and was abused. She came home from the weekend and told her mother, who alerted the police.
The trial has been delayed on several occasions since the couple's arrest and arraignment last year. According to court records, the defendants, who are represented by separate attorneys but tried together, asked the court to dismiss the first set of public defenders they were assigned. In separate letters to the court they said their attorneys "didn't believe me and will not protect my interests."
They tried to dismiss the second set of public defenders assigned to them - Darrel Gardner, representing Dick Sky, and Sidney Billingslea, representing Cynthia Sky - but were unsuccessful. Gardner and Billingslea also unsuccessfully tried to have themselves removed from the case, saying in court records that their clients were uncooperative.
Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Michael Thompson is presiding over the trial.
If convicted, the Skys could get up to 30 years in prison for each count of sex abuse of a minor. Dick Sky could get an additional five years if he is convicted for failing to register as a sex offender and another five years for the weapons charge.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.