A man with more than 40 criminal convictions in Alaska since 1987 pleaded innocent in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday to beating and attempting to sexually assault a woman who had given him a place to stay.
Larry Rieger, 45, faces felony charges of first-degree attempted sexual assault and third-degree assault. A grand jury had indicted him for sexual assault, but prosecutors amended the charge to attempted sexual assault.
Rieger also faces a misdemeanor charge of interfering with a domestic-violence report. The charges stem from alleged incidents on Nov. 26.
Defense attorney David Seid was unavailable for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.
The basis for the prosecution's case was laid out in an affidavit filed with the court.
The affidavit said Rieger was staying with the alleged victim, whose name and age weren't released. She told police she was letting Rieger sleep on her couch after his release from the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where he had been held on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges. The original charge was misdemeanor assault.
The alleged victim told police she and Rieger had been friends for years, the affidavit said. When she came home the night of Nov. 26 Rieger yelled at her, saying he was the man of the house and that she'd better listen to him or he would kill her. The woman asked him to leave. He punched her in the mouth and grabbed her by the throat, the affidavit said. The woman told police he held her throat so hard she couldn't breathe.
He let go, then punched her in the face and again grabbed her by the throat and pushed her into the bedroom, ordering her to give him oral sex, the affidavit said. The woman told police she did what he asked, thinking if she did "he might stop hurting her," the affidavit said. When she was finished, he punched her in the face.
The woman reached for the phone, but Rieger pulled the chord out of the wall. He pushed a barstool in front of the door and said it would keep police from "coming to get him," the affidavit said. The woman began screaming for neighbors to call the police. According to the affidavit, the woman told police she believed Rieger was going to kill her.
Rieger has more than 40 criminal convictions in Alaska since 1987, according to computerized Alaska court records. Charges include prostitution, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, drunken driving and more than a dozen misdemeanor assault charges. He also has at least three long-term personal protection orders filed against him by various women.
District Attorney Rick Svobodny told the Empire that budgetary constraints in the corrections system and plea bargaining in the prosecutor's office can result in short sentences.
"It is the business of corrections to make sure people don't spend much time in jail," said Svobodny.
He said some felons are allowed to serve sentences at home, to use alcohol- and drug-rehabilitation programs as equivalent to prison time, and receive time off a sentence for good behavior in prison.
"The reasoning behind (plea agreements) is that if we have a 20 percent chance of winning at trial we'll often go for the plea so that at least we can get a conviction," Svobodny said.
Rieger is lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $100,000 bail. He is due back in court for a hearing in January.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.