Judge upholds indictment in slashing case

Lawyer argues arrest was illegal because police had no search warrant

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2004

Enough evidence exists to charge Aaron St. Clair Jr. in the Jan. 7 slashing of a Juneau taxi driver, even without the statements he made to police after his arrest, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Larry Weeks denied a defense motion to dismiss the indictment charging St. Clair, 22, with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with evidence in the robbery of Eric Drake.

Drake survived a knife attack in which his throat was slashed and he sustained puncture wounds to the head, abdomen and legs. He spent eight hours in surgery, with most of the time devoted to repairing his hands.

After hearing of the ruling Thursday afternoon, Drake said he was happy about the outcome.

"We're just going to have to put our faith in the court system," Drake said.

Assistant Public Defender David Seid said late Thursday he hadn't decided whether to appeal the ruling before trial.

"I respectfully disagree with some of the court's reasoning," he said.

St. Clair is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 19. His wife, Violet St. Clair, 18, will stand trial separately after his trial is completed.

In a written order Thursday, Weeks officially suppressed statements St. Clair made after he was read his rights on the night of his arrest. Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner did not oppose the point in the defense motion. Seid argued that Aaron St. Clair had indicated he wanted an attorney present.

"The court does not believe that (Juneau police) in any way acted in bad faith," Weeks wrote. "Rather, they decided to push on with an interrogation despite an equivocal request for an attorney."

The judge found Violet St. Clair's statement to police implicated her husband, independent of his statements.

Violet St. Clair was charged with first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.

Seid had argued that the arrests of both St. Clairs in their home at the Chinook Apartments in the Mendenhall Valley were illegal because police did not have a search warrant.

Weeks ruled the police had linked Violet St. Clair to the crime when they determined the call for Drake's taxi had come from her cell phone. Drake had also described the sandals and multi-colored toe socks being worn by the woman seated next to him while he was being attacked from behind.

Police investigator Paul Hatch testified to finding items matching Drake's description in Violet St. Clair's possession before police went to Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins for search warrants.

"Even if all the evidence (that the) defendant suggests should be suppressed were omitted from the grand jury proceedings, there would still be enough information to support the indictment," Weeks wrote.

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

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