Two months at a time for the ALO news, owing to a major trial in Bethel, extensive travel involved with that trial, and perhaps a bit of just plain laziness. March and April were eventful, and the biggest event was the third installment of the Philip Morris tobacco trial in Bethel Court. ALO had a larger role in this trial than the previous two, joining lead counsel Stan Davis from Kansas in cross examination of the plaintiff's witnesses. There were few live witnesses as much of the testimony was read from previous hearings or trials. This being the third trial of the case, there was plenty of earlier stuff to pick from. ALO's two main jobs were helping with jury selection by addressing the panel during voir dire, and cross examination of economist Francis Gallela.
The trial lasted three weeks and resulted in a defense verdict on a vote of 11-1. In the first trial there was also a defense verdict, 12-0, and the second trial was a hung jury at 8-4 for the defense. It takes a 10-2 vote to reach a verdict. Thus the plaintiff has been out voted 31-5 over the course of three trials. In any activity where score is kept, that's not a very strong performance. It is not clear where this case is now headed, but there were public comments suggesting an appeal is being considered.
Being involved with the Philip Morris defense team was a whole new experience for ALO. The team, which includes several lawyers, paralegals, and other helpers, rents the Angstman house and everyone is fed their evening meal there, prepared by local chefs on a rotating schedule. Conducting a cross examination with a team of lawyers watching every word is a challenge. The usual cross is done with one or two clients listening, and of course a jury. Split second decisions as to where the exam should next proceed are made without much hesitation. Not so when there are high caliber lawyers on hand. But the final result is what counts in a jury trial, and this one turned out well.
It is worth noting that many pundits assumed Philip Morris could not win this case. Bethel has a long history of being kind to locals when they take on defendants from outside Alaska. Throw in the difficult history of tobacco litigation, and Philip Morris faced a major challenge in Bethel. For the third trial, the plaintiff brought in a famous tobacco lawyer from Florida to pick the jury. Check the website for Alex Alvarez. He has quite an array of big wins against tobacco companies. He is 0-1 in Bethel.
The Philip Morris team had one secret weapon as they worked on the trial. Most of the lawyers latched on to Jack the dog as their new buddy. So much so that they bet on their new favorite horse in the Kentucky Derby, My Boy Jack, at about 30-1 odds, and lost. Spring was slow in arriving at the Elk Farm where this is being written. A snow storm dumped over a foot of snow on the farm about the time a flight was scheduled to Alaska. Hundreds of flights were canceled but the Anchorage flight managed to leave about 2 hours late. That storm has been followed by delightful spring weather, and the usual spring sights and sounds of the farm have been entertaining. Wildlife numbers have been steadily climbing in recent years because of the enhanced habitat on the farm, and some mornings and evenings the sounds of wildlife are overwhelming. Especially loud are the Sandhill cranes and Canada geese, but there are others making noise as well. Rooster pheasants, a variety of ducks, turkeys and coyotes all add to the chorus. Just in the last few days frogs have upped the decibel level with their mating songs. On evening deer drives a high of 39 deer have been seen, all either on the farm or within a half mile of the farm.
One other spring sighting was less pleasant. New neighbors from last fall heard the owner of the Elk Farm lived in Alaska, so therefore it must be open range for their frequent horse rides. Of course horses leave tracks, sometimes deep on muddy trails, and also large fertilizer deposits, so it wasn't hard to determine there were trespassers. A different group of horse riders asked permission and are welcome but it was clear from the tracks this was a second group. Trail cams picked up the riders one time but at some distance which prevented identification. Then one day three riders approached on a trail and were about to bump into the crack Elk Farm security team on a golf cart. A brief slow speed chase ensued, followed by a mad dash from a 70 year old to apprehend the slowest of the riders. All three were teenagers, and lo and behold one of their defenses was that they had permission. Seems strange that they fled when they ran into the golf cart if they had permission, but even more strange was their view that no one had ever told them they couldn't ride on the farm. They wouldn't reveal their names or where they lived but it wasn't hard to discover that information with a little lawyer work. The final impression from the conversation was that none of them would be back anytime soon. If any of the three young women ever need an attorney, it is doubtful they will select ALO.
ALO client Seth Kantner has made these pages before, mainly for his skilled writing. Seth lives in the Kotzebue area and grew up in the wild country along the Kobuk River. He wrote a thoughtful article for the Anchorage paper that needs to be read. Of all troubling things going on in Washington, the most painful for those who value Mother Nature is the assault on the environment that is moving forward at a fast pace while no one is really paying attention. Seth's article captures a taste of a pure and simple life that is fast disappearing. At this moment a road is contemplated to the very region Seth describes. No one there wants the road, but some mining company stands to make a bunch of money if the road goes in. Guess which side is likely to win.
Here is a clip of an Iditarod team covering a challenging part of the trail that is worth watching.
Kuskokwim 300 race manager Madi Reichard was front and center in this photo from Nome after the Iditarod. In the back is champion Joar Ulsom, with Richie Diehl and Emmie Fairbanks. For those folks who think Iditarod racing is all glamour, check out this shot of Richie Diehl catching a couple hours sleep in Elim. Posh.
Many young folks never had the pleasure of seeing Far Side cartoons from Gary Larson, which were published daily for many years in newspapers. Here is a collection of some of the best for those who remember, or for those who wonder what they missed. There was actual anger expressed when he retired. "How can he do that?" was a common complaint. These mandatory moose are a common sight in Anchorage, but still great to watch.
The total lack of concern for traffic and people is obvious from this clip. Many Anchorage folks agree they never tire of seeing these critters wander around the city, even when they cause traffic jams.
Webmaster Rich Gannon is a master of puns, so this one is for him. It perhaps has an age component built in, but it's a good one.
What do Bethel TV star Nate DeHaan and Stormy Daniels have in common? They both signed non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from talking about events in their past. Nate's are a little more wholesome though. He can't divulge the results of American Ninja Warrior events he takes part in until after they are televised. His penalty? One million dollars if he spills the beans. Stormy's deal is a little different. She must pay one million dollars if she talks about what she and Donald Trump did in a hotel room a few years back. Most Americans seem to know what happened in that room, but Trump's lawyer paid her $130,000 to keep quiet. That whole incident is careening out of control at the moment, and it seems likely neither Nate nor Stormy will be paying a million dollar penalty anytime soon. It is fairly obvious what happened. Trump told Cohen to pay off Stormy right before the election. They agreed Cohen would be reimbursed with attorney fees so that no hush money would show up in Trump's books. When word of the payment got out Cohen denied he was reimbursed. Then they raided his office, and Trump assumed the records will confirm that he paid Cohen a bunch of money. So he trots out Guiliani to concoct yet another cover story.
Long time Bethel resident Emma Moses died recently leaving a large number of children, grand children and great grandchildren. She lived near ALO and one story bears repeating at her passing. Emma was a very traditional lady, hailing from the remote village of Mekoryuk. At one time in the 1980's ALO imported a batch of pheasants from Minnesota and they all "escaped" at the end of the summer. They spread out in the area, and actually reproduced and hung around for a few years. One day the phone at ALO rang and it was Emma. "There is a very funny looking ptarmigan in my yard and someone says it belongs to you." Emma reported. Emma was told it was a pheasant and that at that point it belonged to no one. She was happy to hear that. Folks around town enjoyed seeing the birds and many were feeding them. The population dropped sharply one day when another neighbor encountered a bunch of them near town and shot 11 of them. He bragged about that feat at work one day and was roundly condemned.
Finally, this account of the early Angstman family in Princeton from Aunt Laura Wheeler, one of 13 children in the Angstman family that first came to the farm in 1904. Laura lived to be 102 and loved to tell stories about the old days. Her accounts of life in a mud hut in South Dakota before moving to Princeton were first hand accounts of life in the late 1800's to a person now living well into the 2000's. The only regret is not asking more questions. One memory of Laura was the time period she worked as a camp cook for a summer camp on the White Earth Indian reservation in Minnesota. She suggested young Myron should come for a few days visit. Pete and Edna delivered their youngest to the reservation, and the car stopped right in front of the building where Laura cooked. Peering out the window, there were young Indian boys frolicking in the yard, clearly having a good time. Life on the farm in those days didn't involve many kids, and certainly not Indian kids. Growing up in an almost all white community, it is fair to say that Indians were regarded cautiously by the Angstman family. But Laura had worked at the reservation for years, and loved the kids she worked with. She came to the car and urged her nephew to get out and join the throng of kids romping around. There was no way out. The scrawny little white guy made his move. What followed was the most fun few days ever. The Indian kids knew how to roam the woods around the camp with abandon, and they accepted the white kid without hesitation. Old Laura knew what she was doing. It was a lesson that resonates today, more today than ever.