Violet St. Clair enters guilty plea; may testify during husband's trial

Charges against Aaron St. Clair Jr. include attempted 1st-degree murder, robbery, assault

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2004

Violet St. Clair entered a guilty plea Friday and may be asked to testify against her husband, with whom she is charged in the robbery and slashing attack of a Juneau cab driver.

St. Clair, 18, agreed to plead guilty to felony first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery in Juneau Superior Court.

She also plans to divorce her husband, Aaron St. Clair Jr., whom she married in May 2003, she told the court.

"This testimony does not involve any testimony in the trial of Aaron St. Clair," her lawyer, Steve Wells, said via telephone.

While the plea bargain did not include St. Clair's testifying against her husband, the prosecutor's office may seek her testimony, Aaron St. Clair's attorney, Assistant Public Defender David Seid, said afterward. Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner declined comment, and Wells could not be reached for comment.

Violet St. Clair told Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks someone threatened her that if she pleaded guilty she would not be able to see her 1-year-old son, Derek.

Seid said he did not know who threatened St. Clair, but that it was not his client.

Aaron St. Clair, 21, made a brief court appearance Friday during which Weeks to set his trial at 9 a.m. Oct. 26.

Charges against him include attempted first-degree murder, robbery and assault, and tampering with physical evidence in the Jan. 7 attack on Juneau Taxi driver Eric Drake.

Seid plans to seek a trial change of venue, preferably to Ketchikan, because of publicity surrounding the case, he said. In June, Weeks denied change-of-venue motions from Seid and Wells.

Meanwhile, Aaron St. Clair's parents, Vera and Jim Jackson, are guardians of the child. Jim Jackson held their first grandchild in his arms outside of court Friday.

Jim Jackson said he asked his son directly if he committed the crime and his son said no. The parents believe their son is telling the truth, and added that many of the couple's friends visited their apartment and used their cellular phone. The couple would often come to the Jackson's house without their cell phone because someone else was using it, the Jacksons said.

The cell phone is important because police said the call for Drake's cab was made from Violet St. Clair's cell phone.

The Jacksons opposed St. Clair's guilty plea and criticized the legal process. They wanted the couple to have the same attorney. Wells, a public defender, has made court appearances by telephone and was often difficult to reach, the Jacksons said.

"I don't think this would have happened if they had the same lawyer," Jim Jackson said. "We were 100 percent behind them. My son still loves her and they have a child together."

Violet St. Clair, who had completed part of a high school GED, had difficulty understanding the legal process, they said. She had been in foster care since age 10.

"I'm just angry that there's no one out there who can help Violet understand what she's going through," Vera Jackson said.

She will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Dec. 23. She faces up to eight years in jail, 10 years probation and must enroll in a treatment program in California.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com



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