Man faces jail time in Valdez rock throw

Piekarski may get 30 days in jail for hitting Coast Guard officer

Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A man charged with felony assault for reportedly throwing rocks at a Coast Guard officer in Valdez is expected to plead Friday to a reduced charge.

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But Michael G. Piekarski still faces a 30-day jail sentence because the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer, prosecutor Jon-Marc Petersen said. The incident last month bruised the officer's arm.

Piekarski's attorney, Bill Bixby of Valdez, called his client a "good guy" who faces serious consequences for what authorities describe as a goofing-around moment. Piekarski, 34, has worked in Valdez for about a decade but lost his job and now must sell his home and move to Anchorage to find work, according to Bixby.

"This is costing him a lot," he said. He declined to discuss the plea deal.

The rock-throwing occurred about 9 p.m. on June 10. Piekarski was a laborer for an oil-spill-response contractor at the large pipeline terminal in Valdez and had been checking that inflatable boom was in place around tankers as a guard against spills.

Piekarski and another worker saw a Coast Guard patrol raft and wondered what going on, according to an account by the project manager for the contractor, Tatitlek Chenega Chugach LCC.

The men asked their supervisor, who sarcastically told them to throw rocks at the boat.

The Coast Guard officer, Lt. Jason Frank, told police he saw a couple of men on a pier about 20 yards from the patrol boat.

"The men yelled something unintelligible at him, and he waved at them. Then, Lt. Frank saw a rock coming at him and land in the water about five feet from the boat he was in," the complaint by the Valdez Police Department states. Another rock hit Frank in the right arm, sending him to the emergency room, police said.

The rock thrower later was identified as Piekarski, police said.

Frank, executive officer of the Coast Guard cutter Naushon, was in uniform and the patrol boat was marked with Coast Guard lettering, according to police.

Piekarski told police he was joking around and told the Coast Guard officer he was going to throw rocks. He said he threw just one rock that hit the boat.

"The bottom line is this guy just wasn't thinking," said Valdez Police Chief Bill Comer. "If he could pull that rock back, he would. It doesn't mean he is a bad guy."

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