Judge may toss alleged confession

Prosecutor in taxi-robbery case agrees judge can disallow statements but will pursue case

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

Comments about the alleged stabbing made to police by the man accused of robbing and slashing cab driver Eric Drake in January may not be used against him.

The prosecution agrees that the judge may disallow use of Aaron St. Clair Jr.'s alleged confession because it came during an interrogation after he told police he could not afford an attorney.

St. Clair's attorney, Assistant Public Defender David Seid, argues the felony indictment against his client should be dismissed due to police misconduct.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner says he can still make a case against St. Clair, though the judge may disallow the defendant's statements "out of an abundance of caution."

Gardner argued that there remains enough evidence for the indictment charging St. Clair, 22, with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with evidence in the Jan. 7 attack on Drake.

Seid motioned to suppress the statements and other evidence and dismiss the indictment.

Drake was driving a cab when he was dispatched to pick up a couple near Riverbend School. He was attacked from behind and robbed of $60 near a motel in the Jordan Creek area. He later spent about eight hours in surgery at Bartlett Regional Hospital. Drake's throat was slashed. He also had numerous stab wounds. Much of the time in surgery was spent repairing his hands.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks had not ruled on the motion Wednesday. He already has ruled that St. Clair will be tried separately from his wife, Violet, 18, who is charged with first-degree assault and first-degree robbery in the attack on Drake. The two are scheduled to stand trial separately in October.

"This police conduct was illegal," Seid wrote. He claimed his client's arrest was illegal.

He noted that during questioning, a police investigator was explaining his rights, including the right to have an attorney present.

Seid said his client said he couldn't afford an attorney. Questioning should have stopped right there, he argued. But it continued, eventually eliciting statements.

Seid also argued that everything the police gained from the "illegal interrogation" must be thrown out as well. "The linchpin for the prosecution is the alleged confession of each St. Clair."

Gardner said two of Aaron St. Clair's statements were presented to the grand jury, and they were similar. One came out of police questioning. The other came to police attention from a woman who talked with a man who talked to St. Clair.

He described the arrest of the St. Clairs as the culmination of police work.

He wrote that the St. Clairs were identified as suspects because the telephone records of Juneau Taxi showed that a cellular telephone used to make the call for cab was Violet St. Clair's.

Police also found St. Clair to be in possession of multicolored toe socks and sandals with a buckle. Both matched what Drake had described on the woman sitting in the cab next to him during the attack.

Gardner added that the statement allegedly made by Aaron St. Clair to another person came to police attention after the woman had told an investigator that widely circulated sketches based on Drake's descriptions were inaccurate.

In the statement, Aaron St. Clair allegedly said the theft netted $60, which was accurate. Like the toe socks, the amount stolen from St. Clair was not released to the media.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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