Lengthy statement postpones convicted arsonist's sentencing

Posted: Friday, October 14, 2005

Sentencing for the man found guilty in July of last year's Auke Bay arson was postponed until this morning to give him a chance to finish a sweeping statement that began with him alleging he was "railroaded" by a "kangaroo court."

Rickey Gottardi, 46, has been in jail since the week of the Sept. 21, 2004, fire started in fuel lines at DeHarts Marina. An April trial ended with a deadlocked jury. Jurors at his second trial in July required less than two hours to find him guilty of first-degree arson, first-degree criminal mischief and a misdemeanor oil pollution charge.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins scheduled sentencing for Thursday afternoon. After hearing from the attorneys, she asked if the defendant had anything to say.

Gottardi spoke for more than an hour. At about 4:50 p.m., Collins said she didn't want to cut him off, but asked if he was almost finished, noting that she had an engagement in the evening.

She postponed the hearing after Gottardi said he would probably be finished by 5:30 p.m.

"I realize I have a rebellious air about my demeanor," Gottardi said, when he began reading his statement. But he called himself "a ready-made scapegoat."

"Quite literally, I'm being railroaded," he said. He also said there should be a "fair and impartial investigation into judicial misconduct."

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner asked Collins to sentence Gottardi to serve 20 years - the maximum for the arson and criminal mischief felonies - and restrict his possible parole.

He presented a chart that showed Gottardi's criminal record since 1977, the year he turned 18, and said he has had some contact with the criminal justice system every year. The charges involved marijuana, assault, indecent exposure and drunken driving. He escaped, briefly, from the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in 1982.

"The public has been in danger," Gardner said.

That applies, he added, to exposing himself to a young person on Sandy Beach in Douglas, masturbating out a window of the Bergmann Hotel downtown, and crimes that have become progressively worse, he said.

"(Gottardi) does not want to be rehabilitated," Gardner said.

Gottardi criticized Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks, who presided at his April trial, and Collins, who presided at the July trial, saying his due process rights were violated. He described the prosecution, the judges and his defense attorney as "the regime" on numerous occasions during his statement, saying they worked together to see he was convicted.

He traced what he alleged as a conspiracy against him to the killing of his brother, Anthony Gottardi, on Aug. 5, 1998. He said his brother was killed under mysterious circumstances, and the lone witness died the next year under mysterious circumstances.

He said he has been punished because he continues asking why the man he named as his brother's killer remains free and deals drugs.

"Some of his clients are officials in the Juneau power structure," he said.

Gottardi said he believed state prosecutors hoped he would kill his brother's killer so they could prosecute him for murder. "I'm not a killer," he said.

After he continued on for another hour with complaints about the way the justice system treated him at his two trials, failing to allow evidence favorable to his case, Gardner noted the time. The prosecutor said he didn't want to prevent Gottardi from making any points, but noted that he wasn't addressing any of the criteria that the law requires Collins to consider in her sentence.

The hearing was scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.

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

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