Two trials dominated the month of December at ALO. The first was a drunk driving and refusal case in Nome. It resulted in a split decision, with the jury acquitting the driver on DWI, and finding her guilty on refusal. It should be noted that refusal cases are difficult to win. Here's how it goes: did you refuse the breath test? If the answer is yes, there is little defense. But in this case there was a reason for the trial. Earlier the judge had been asked to throw out the refusal because of an unlawful stop, based on a peculiar conversation recorded by the arresting officers. It seems they forgot that one of them had a hidden recorder running when they conferred in the police car. Likely no one noticed that part of the tape when it was turned over to ALO. The driver had been stopped because a caller to the police complained that she was driving 10 mph under the speed limit. After an initial contact with the driver, here is the conversation with the officers.
Other Officer: 10-4. When I was out there I didn't see the stagnus. Really didn't notice anything in her eyes, coming out of the vehicle. They said they did the loop evidently the passenger wanted to do a smoke, they just went out. They said they went out and did the loop and was driving back.
Officer: Everything valid? Insurance everything?
Other Officer: Yeah. Expiration date 09-05-2014. Registration expires June 2014.
Officer: Alright if you don't have anything. Could be inattentive driving a number of things but if you don't have anything to go on, we can't just yard her out of the car for nothing. Go ahead and contact her and what did you tell her you stopped her for? Tell her that she was possibly impaired. Have you have anything to drink tonight? Never hurts to ask, right? Cause some people will think 2 drinks means their okay. Go ahead and do that.
Now it is not often you get police in a drunk driving case to admit they have nothing on the driver after the first encounter. But despite their own statement to the contrary, the court ruled the police were justified in continuing with their investigation and eventually the driver admitted to having some beer hours earlier. In order to appeal that ruling, the driver had to go through a trial.
The other trial had a happier ending. ALO had its first ever trial in Homer, and the result was a not guilty verdict for a local biologist charged with a couple counts for shooting a moose with the aid of two way radio communication. The state completely failed to prove that the hunter was aided in any way by the use of a radio. In fact, in the charging documents, the state never suggested any aid, but instead simply stated that the hunter used a radio. The difference in meaning is substantial. For example lots of people use tobacco, but how many are aided by the use of tobacco? Here is a news article about the case. Because he was a state employee, the hunter was on unpaid leave waiting for his trial. His job future is uncertain, but the trial results should help.
Much of Alaska had been subjected to warm temps and rainy weather during December. Trail conditions for winter travel are not good, and the Kuskokwim 300 has needed extra effort from upriver villages to even bust a trail through rough ice in that area.
An alternative trail was proposed, but now most of the trail seems doable, and the race is on for Jan 16th. This will mark the 36th year for the race, and Old Friendly Dog Farm has had a team in one of the three races held during race weekend each year. In fact, OFDF is the only kennel that has produced a winner in all three races. Myron won the K300 twice, Andy won the Bogus Creek 150, and Csaba Horvath won the Akiak Dash with the Angstman team. This year Victoria Hardwick will compete in the Bogus for OFDF.
Speaking of dogs, this video of a certain Bethel lawyer training dogs instead of working on a nice December day was posted on Facebook, and almost 1800 people clicked to watch it. That doesn't qualify as viral but it suggests a certain level of boredom.
Its time for a review of the new pool facility in Bethel, otherwise known as Bev's Bath House. Beverly Hoffman has been mentioned here before in other contexts. She was the driving force behind the pool and in fact holds court there most everyday now that it is open. They even gave her a free lifetime membership. It is quite the place. It likely would not be built in today's political atmosphere in Alaska, with oil prices down and capital projects being cut right and left. But it squeaked in at the end of big oil money, and Bethel is better for it. Whether it can be sustained in the long term remains to be seen. It must be expensive to run, and eventually that will be a financial burden met by the users. In the mean time old and young seem to be frequenting both the pool and exercise room in good numbers, and the facility is exceptional.There are some management issues to iron out, including the age-old question of how much coverage is needed on a female swimmer. From a strictly legal point of view, the correct answer seems to be not much, and of course ALO always sides with the law.
In addition to two trials, ALO settled a significant civil case in December. A former Bethel person was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Anchorage and the driver fled the scene. He was later apprehended and charged. The deceased person's children will recover the policy limits from insurance on the car involved.
Another long standing ALO case was resolved in Bethel when a driver charged with drunk driving had his case dismissed after more than a year.
And finally, ALO posted an ad on Facebook for an office helper, and got an interesting response from a client.