Defendant in stabbing case to change plea

Plea change would prevent trial slated for Monday

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

The man charged with the Jan. 7 slashing attack and robbery of taxi driver Eric Drake is set to enter a guilty plea today in Juneau Superior Court rather than stand trial next week, his attorney said.

David Seid, representing defendant Aaron St. Clair Jr., said Thursday that he couldn't discuss specifics.

"Nothing's official at the moment," said Seid, an assistant public defender. "There is an agreement and we're going to hear it."

St. Clair, 21, was scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with physical evidence. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.

During St. Clair's initial court appearance, Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich told St. Clair he faced up to 134 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted of the three most serious charges.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said Alaska court rules prohibit him from discussing any plea agreement. But he said he would be in court for the hearing at 2 p.m. today before Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks.

Weeks on Thursday had not yet ruled on a motion by Gardner seeking to allow an alleged eyewitness to the attack, Violet St. Clair, to testify.

Violet St. Clair, the defendant's 19-year-old wife, pleaded guilty three weeks ago to reduced charges for her role in the attack.

In February, she was charged along with her husband with first-degree assault and first-degree robbery of Drake in his Juneau Taxi cab. She was accused of calling for the cab on her cell phone and sitting in the seat next to Drake as her husband allegedly cut his throat and stabbed him numerous times from the back seat.

On Oct. 1, she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. She is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 23.

Seid had filed an opposition to Violet St. Clair testifying against his client. He cited Alaska court rules that he said protects communications between a man and wife as privileged information.

Gardner had argued that if such a privilege applied, it would be up to Violet St. Clair to invoke it.

State Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells, Violet St. Clair's attorney, later said he would not oppose his client testifying against her husband.

The man and woman who robbed Drake on the night of Jan. 7 outside a motel in the Jordan Creek area left on foot with $60 from Drake's wallet. Drake spent about eight hours in surgery, in large part to repair his hands.

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