ANCHORAGE - Daniel Scott, a former Alaska state trooper, pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting three women and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Scott must register as a sex offender for 15 years after completing his sentence but will not have to serve any probation, Superior Court Judge Richard Savell ruled Monday.
The case has cost the state nearly $1 million in damages in a related civil suit.
Scott, 45, an 18-year veteran of the troopers, denied any wrongdoing even as he pleaded no contest to a single count of second-degree sexual assault that covered accusations from three victims.
Scott made "a very painful business decision" to take a plea arrangement rather than risking a trial and a much longer sentence, defense attorney Sidney Billingslea said.
Most of the incidents happened in the Western Alaska village of Aniak while Scott was posted there.
One woman said Scott forced her to perform a sexual act in his patrol car in spring 2004, according to charging documents. Another said he raped her outside her home in August 2004. The third said he fondled her in June 2002.
Scott resigned from the troopers after his arrest.
He originally faced 11 felony counts, including kidnapping and sexual assault, and one misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.
Scott told Judge Savell that he was willing to plead to the charge "to get on with my life." He has two grown sons, a partner, and friends who are standing behind him, Billingslea said after the hearing.
"In my heart I know I am innocent," Scott said in court.
Both prosecutor Teresa Foster and Billingslea urged the judge to accept the plea deal. The difficult case would have been risky for either side at trial, they said.
Had Scott been convicted in a trial, he likely would have been sentenced to 10 years, Foster said. An acquittal would have been far worse for the victims, she said.
A phenomenon lawyers call the "CSI factor" weighed in favor of the plea deal, Foster said. The popular television crime show has led jurors to unrealistic expectations of evidence, she said. They want DNA proof, eyewitnesses and confessions.
In the case against Scott, the women did not come forward when the assaults happened so troopers could not collect physical evidence, she said.
By the time troopers, acting on a tip, began interviewing the women, four months to more than two years had passed. Memories of witnesses who may have been able to back up parts of the women's stories had dimmed, she said.
"All sorts of issues arise that inhibit reporting and accountability for these crimes," Foster told the judge.
"In this particular case, these troublesome factors were made much worse because the man doing the sexual assaulting was a man wearing a blue uniform, driving a nice vehicle with a public safety emblem, carrying a gun and wrapped in all the respect a state trooper brings to our rural communities."
In Aniak, Scott was "someone with a rock star's charisma and charm" and even when some people became alarmed they did not know what to do, she told the judge.
More than a year before the 2004 assaults, troopers had warnings that Scott was making unwanted sexual comments and passes at women, said Russ Winner, an Anchorage attorney who, along with other lawyers, sued Scott and the Department of Public Safety last year.
The state paid $930,000 to settle the complaint involving five women, according to Winner's office.
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.