Accused oil pipeline shooter's brother says he saw it happen

Defense says testimony tainted by prosecutor's special treatment of witness

Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2002

FAIRBANKS - The brother of accused pipeline shooter Daniel Lewis testified in court that he saw Lewis shoot a hole in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline on Oct. 4, 2001.

Randy Lewis took the stand Thursday and Friday in his brother's trial on state charges connected to the shooting.

Daniel Lewis' defense team contends the prosecution coached its star witness into making those statements and offered him breaks in his own legal cases.

Prompted by questions from prosecutor Kevin Burke, Randy Lewis outlined a story in which Daniel shot the pipeline with a .338-caliber hunting rifle while the pair was driving on a pipeline access road near Livengood.

Adam Gurewitz, one of two public defenders representing Daniel Lewis, said he wants to show Randy has been receiving preferential treatment for testifying against his brother. Gurewitz suggested Randy has changed his story about the pipeline shooting because of the breaks he's gotten from law officials, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

"It's a different case now," Gurewitz said.

Randy testified that Daniel first drove a four-wheeler from Fairbanks to the 160-acre Lewis household on about Oct. 2. He said the men spent Oct. 3 selling Randy's water pump to a neighbor so they could buy alcohol from a nearby store.

On Oct. 4, Randy said they woke up early after drinking the night before. In the afternoon, he said they decided to go look for firewood, Randy on an older-model three-wheeler and Daniel on his much newer and faster four-wheeler.

Randy carried a .357-caliber handgun and Daniel carried the .338-caliber Mossberg hunting rifle, said Randy, who testified both guns belonged to another one of their brothers. He said the first round from the rifle was fired on accident by Daniel when they stopped by a lake and drank beer.

When they left again, Daniel sped ahead and got stuck in waist-deep mud on a side trail, Randy said. The brothers took turns pulling each other, Randy said. After that, the pair got back onto the pipeline access road they had been traveling on, and Daniel again got ahead.

Randy said he heard a round being fired and caught up with his brother to find Daniel had shot a support beam on the pipeline.

After the pair looked at where the support beam was struck, Randy said they left and drove to a river, where they stopped and drank more beer.

At this point, Randy said he saw Daniel fire two shots at the pipeline. Randy said he approached his brother and asked what he was doing. Daniel pointed the gun at Randy's sternum and cussed at him, he testified.

Randy said Daniel turned the gun back at the pipeline and fired, this time piercing the 0.5-inch thick inner steel. The shooting resulted in a spill of more than 285,000 gallons of oil from the pipeline.

Daniel Lewis has been charged with oil pollution and first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the pipeline shooting as well as felony driving while intoxicated for allegedly driving the four-wheeler while drunk, third-degree assault for allegedly pointing the rifle at Randy and weapons misconduct for allegedly handling a gun while drunk. He faces as many as 22 years in prison if convicted of those charges.

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