Northwest Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2004

Grandfather agrees to testify in abuse case

PALMER - The adoptive grandfather of the five children at the center of a Matanuska-Susitna Borough child abuse case has been released from jail and will testify against his daughter and son-in-law, according to prosecutors.

George Long, 65, also was charged in the case but was released from jail Thursday. He suffered a heart attack during his three-month incarceration and received his freedom after agreeing to testify against his daughter and son-in-law, Sherry and Patrick Kelley, according to his attorney and court proceedings.

His wife, Shirley Long, 60, was released from jail in mid-November after she agreed to testify against the Kelleys.

State prosecutors accuse Sherry and Patrick Kelley of beating the children, confining them and delivering other punishments.

George Long was said to be involved in the abuse, according to court documents and accounts from a relative, who said he chained one boy around his neck and beat some of the children with a belt. He was charged with two counts of harassment. Assistant District Attorney Rachel Gernat said he inappropriately touched the older girls.

As part of the plea agreement, the state dropped assault charges against the Longs as well as harassment charges against George Long, said his attorney, John Pharr.

The Longs will appear in Palmer District Court on Dec. 30 to plead no contest to charges of failing to report a violent crime against a child, Pharr said.

POW man charged in Tennessee pot bust

KETCHIKAN - A Prince of Wales Island businessman has been arrested in Tennessee, accused of carrying 400 pounds of marijuana in his small airplane.

Allen Paul Richter, 64, owner of the Naukati Connection general store in Naukati Bay, was arrested Nov. 29 in Nashville after a search of his airplane, according to federal court documents.

Naukati Bay is a community of more than 100 on the west side of Prince of Wales Island.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents charged Richter under a federal law that prohibits possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms - about 220 pounds - of marijuana.

Greg Peckinpaugh, a special agent for the federal agency, wrote in a criminal complaint memo that Customs and Border Protection agents in California tracked Richter's airplane on a flight from Phoenix to Nashville.

Customs agents notified the Nashville Police Department that they considered the Cessna T-210 airplane's flight pattern suspicious, Peckinpaugh wrote.

A federal grand jury indicted Richter on Dec. 1.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul O'Brien agreed to Richter's release on a $200,000 property bond to be secured by deeds of trust to his home and business in Naukati and rental properties in Homedale, Idaho.

Chief cleared in historical court

PUYALLUP INDIAN RESERVATION, Wash. - The school here is named for Chief Leschi, a 19th century leader of the Nisqually Tribe and a hero to area tribes who believe - with many historians - that he was wrongly convicted of one of Washington Territory's first murders.

Leschi is buried here, his remains moved in 1917 when his grave on Nisqually land became part of the Army's Fort Lewis. The granite marker says he was "judicially murdered" on Feb. 19, 1858 - hanged after his conviction in the death of a white soldier.

On Friday, he was exonerated by a special "Historical Court of Justice" that met at the state history museum in nearby Tacoma to hear testimony from historians and tribal members. The unanimous verdict by a panel of seven judges isn't binding in any legal sense.

But it was cause for celebration nonetheless.

On Thursday, as 21st century students gathered here for an assembly to hear about his case, some danced, drummed and sang to welcome visitors and mark the occasion.

"I cried as I heard you singing," Puyallup elder and longtime tribal activist Ramona Bennett told them. She said she heard the echo of those who gathered 146 years ago at Fort Steilacoom on south Puget Sound, where Leschi was imprisoned, to show support with songs and prayers. "Some of those were even the same songs," she said.

"But there was no pity," Bennett said.

Regents give support to nonunion pay increase

FAIRBANKS - Nonunion employees of the University of Alaska will be in line for annual cost-of-living increases under a policy adopted by the Board of Regents.

The policy adopted at meetings Wednesday and Thursday will affect about 3,200 university workers statewide.

In past years, cost-of-living increases were added to salaries at the discretion of the regents.

Jim Johnsen, UA's vice president for faculty and staff relations, said there have been three increases in the last five years. The new policy will award increases of up to 2 percent a year, based on increases in Anchorage's consumer price index.

The increase for 2004-5 will be a flat 2 percent, which Johnsen said will cost $2 million. The Anchorage CPI has averaged 2.1 percent over the last decade and has risen more than 2 percent in five of the last 10 years.

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