Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2004

Former prison guard pleads guilty to assault

JUNEAU - A former officer at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center agreed Thursday to serve four months in jail for third-degree sexual assault.

Donald L. Coke, 35, appeared before Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins via telephone from Hawaii to change his plea to guilty. Coke was indicted in April on a charge accusing him of having sexual intercourse with a female inmate between June and September 2003.

The law forbids corrections officers from having sex with inmates and does not address consent.

State corrections officials said Coke was dismissed from his job in October.

State Senior Attorney Richard Svobodny, prosecuting the case, said the victim in the case was serving a sentence after being convicted of a felony.

Defense attorney David Mallet said the sentence called for 12 months with eight months suspended. He said he is trying to arrange for Coke to serve his jail time in Hawaii.

Collins said the maximum sentence for the crime is five years in jail and a $50,000 fine. The conviction would require Coke to register as a sex offender for 15 years, she said. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 26.

Hearing set for motion in cabbie slashing case

JUNEAU - The attorney for the man charged with attempted murder in the Jan. 7 attack of a Juneau taxi driver will get a chance next week to argue for dismissal of his client's indictment.

Assistant Public Defender David Seid argued that police misconduct tainted evidence against Aaron St. Clair Jr. The indictment charges St. Clair, 22, with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with evidence in the slashing attack on Eric Drake.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks asked Seid on Thursday if he wanted to present evidence in support of the motion and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.

St. Clair's wife, Violet St. Clair, 18, is charged with first-degree assault and first-degree robbery in the attack on Drake. The two are scheduled to be tried separately, with one case beginning after the other in October.

Drake was driving a cab on Jan. 7, when he was dispatched to pick up a couple near Riverbend School. He was attacked from behind in the Jordan Creek area and robbed of $60, according to court records.

Drake's throat was slashed, and he sustained numerous other wounds. He spent about eight hours in surgery. Much of the time was spent repairing his hands.

Overtime wage rules to have low impact in state

JUNEAU - The U.S. Department of Labor issued new overtime wage rules in August, but they will have little impact in Alaska because the state has stricter standards, said Grey Mitchell, director of the state labor standards and safety division.

One of the main overtime pay changes to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act is salaried workers who are paid $455 per week or less will now be guaranteed overtime protection. Previously, the threshold was $250 per week.

Those possibly affected are restaurant/retail workers and public employees, Mitchell said. But those workers tend to make more than $455 per week because Alaska's wages are higher than many states in the Lower 48, he said.

The city of Juneau has no salaried employees who make $455 per week or less, said city Personnel Director Joan Wilkerson.

The federal minimum wage is $5.65 per hour compared to $7.11 in Alaska. Further, the state calculates overtime as more than eight hours worked in a day or 40 hours in a week. The federal government only applies the weekly overtime standard, not the daily.

Alaska has a law for the retail/restaurant sector which allows administrative and executive employees to collect twice the state minimum wage if they spend a certain percentage of their time doing non-exempt work, Mitchell said. Oftentimes in the retail and restaurant industries, managers spend time doing non-exempt work such as operating a cash register or waiting on customers, he said.

Tobacco training seminar to be held

JUNEAU - A free training seminar about tobacco sales to minors is being held today in Juneau. Sessions run from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 2 to 3:15 p.m. at the Aspen Hotel, 1800 Shell Simmons Drive. Please call 907-790-6435 for directions.

The We Card training seminar is free and open to business owners, managers and store employees. It will focus on state tobacco sales laws, how to spot fake IDs and which ones can be accepted, identifying popular ploys by minors, how to handle second-party sales and difficult situations when sales are refused.

Joe Darnell, chief investigator for the state tobacco enforcement division, will be available to answer questions about Alaska tobacco laws. The seminar is co-sponsored by the We Card Program and Northern Sales Co. of Alaska Inc. in Juneau.

Magician to perform Tuesday at JDHS

JUNEAU - Gary Carson, a magician who performs on the Princess Cruise ships, will perform a fund-raiser for the Juneau-Douglas High School art club, drama and debate teams and Close Up trip at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the high school auditorium.

Carson, originally from Colorado, began his career as a magician after losing his left kidney at the age of 10. He turned professional when he was 14. At age 25, he was chosen to open the MGM Grand Casino & World's Largest Hotel in Las Vegas. He performed 12 shows a day, six days a week and was voted Las Vegas' top family attraction two years in a row.

Carson also performs on the road with his wife Kelsey, an eight-year-old Bengal tiger, Jaggar, and a four-year-old black panther, Shaya. The big cats will not make an appearance in Juneau.

Low enrollment threatens schools funds

HAINES - One Alaska elementary school has closed this year because it didn't have enough students to qualify for state funding, and another may shut down for the same reason by the end of October.

Just eight students were attending Mosquito Lake School, 30 miles north of Haines, at the start of the school year. That's two fewer than required for rural schools by the state Department of Education. If the school's enrollment doesn't increase by end of the department's official count period - Oct. 4 through Oct. 29 - the Haines Borough School District could lose up to $190,000 in funding.

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