Alaska News Nightly: November 22, 2011

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Bill Allen Not Facing Child Sexual Abuse Charges

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC & the Associated Press

It looks like the key government witness in the federal corruption case in Alaska will not face charges of child sexual abuse.

Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny says the case is closed unless someone provides new information or there are federal charges against 74-year-old Bill Allen.

Svobodny said prosecutors weren’t able to corroborate allegations made by about five witnesses.

Anchorage police conducted two investigations into whether Allen had sex with an underage girl in the 1990s. One case was stopped, and federal investigators declined to file charges in the second. Senator Lisa Murkowski and others have criticized the feds for not moving forward because their case could’ve been easier to prove than the state’s. Allen was accused of transporting teenage girls across state lines for sex, which is a federal crime.

A few months ago Murkowski asked the US Attorney General why his team wasn’t pursuing Allen. She is concerned the feds might be giving him a pass because he helped them out in the case against the late Senator Ted Stevens.

“To think he might’ve gotten away with it because of his stature in the community at that time, the relationships that he had, and the fact that he might’ve been working an arrangement, a deal if you will, to avoid all this. And in the meantime you’ve got a young woman whose life has been irreparably harmed. And perhaps more young women out there. We don’t know that for certain. It seems to be there’s been a real failure of process here,” Murkowski said.

Allen ran the Veco Corporation, and pleaded guilty to tax violations and bribing state lawmakers.

While his testimony led to Ted Stevens’ conviction in 2008, a federal judge threw everything out because prosecutors concealed evidence from Stevens’ team. A report released Monday showed they withheld information that would have seriously damaged the credibility of Bill Allen.

Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed disgust Tuesday that Allen won’t be charged.

“It just rattles my cage to think he’s done with his sentence and you know it’s … it’s over for him, and yet you have a man who lost his… it was more than an election… it was Ted Stevens’ career and reputation, brought down by Bill Allen, who is now walking out of jail,” Murkowski said.

Allen was sentenced to three years for his bribery and tax evasion pleas, and was scheduled to be released Tuesday.

Alaska Journalists Publish ‘Crude Awakening’

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

When Alaska journalists Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne started covering the corruption probe, it didn’t take them long to see the potential for a book. The scandal began with an oil tax vote in the state legislature in 2006. Along the way, Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat, state lawmakers went to prison and Sarah Palin rose to become a national celebrity.

Earlier this month, “Crude Awakening; Money, Mavericks and Mayhem in Alaska” was published. I sat down with the husband and wife team to talk about the twists and turns of the corruption investigation and the political fallout in the state.

Hopfinger says it tells the story of oil and Alaska politics over the last 40 years.

Fairbanks Hesitant to Take Strong Line Against ‘Occupy’ Protestors

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Borough is in a tight legal spot in regard to the Occupy Fairbanks protest.  For more than month now, a few occupy protestors have maintained a presence at Veteran’s Memorial Park downtown.  Recently, it’s included two tents.  Mayor Luke Hopkins says the protester’s set up violates a borough parks and recreation rule banning camping at the park.  The protestors maintain that given the cold weather, tents are essential to exercising their right to assemble.   Mayor Hopkins has so far only discussed the issue with protestors, and at last week’s borough assembly meeting, he expressed apprehension about taking a stronger line.

Hopkins was responding to a comment by assembly member Michael Dukes, who pushed for the administration to get tough.

The borough legal department has been looking into what it can do about the Occupy camp.  Borough attorney Rene Broker said the majority of municipal code is not enforced, and singling out the park no camping rule could put borough government on shaky legal ground.

Broker said she would only be willing to move forward if the assembly formally takes up the broader issue of enforcement of borough code. The borough currently does not have police powers. Mayor Hopkins says city police have been checking in on the occupy protest, which so far has been quiet and peaceful.

Foreign Worker Program Frozen Due to Alleged Abuse

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The seafood processing industry could soon need more American workers. That’s because the program that supplies foreign workers to processers is being frozen because of alleged widespread abuses.

Kodiak Sees Decline in Bears Killed in Defense of Life, Property

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

On average Kodiak residents kill 15-20 bears each year in defense of life or property. This year only one has been killed. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Larry Van Daele says the sharp decline in threatening bear encounters is probably a result of hunter education and a good berry season.

Van Daele says the most common situations when humans will have a dangerous encounter with a bear are either during fall hunting or if a bear becomes used to human food or garbage. He says that ADF&G has worked to educate people on how to avoid bears.

Van Daele adds that if someone is out hunting and a bear gets to their kill first, the meat belongs to the bear. Hunters cannot defend their kill, but can defend themselves.

Preparation and Caution Key to Holiday Shopping

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

Although many stores started pushing holiday season buying before they cleared away the Halloween items, on Black Friday–the day after Thanksgiving–the attack on our wallets and credit cards begins in earnest.  As KSKA’s Len Anderson reports, the Better Business Bureau and the FBI has issued some holiday shopping precautions.

Army Spouses Reality Show Coming to Alaska

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Los Angeles based production company is making a documentary television series about Army spouses in Alaska. Forty 4 Blue Productions is developing the program for the Oprah Winfrey Network.   Forty 4 Blue vice president Stephanie Drackovitch says the reality type series will explore the experiences of those left behind at Ft. Wainwright and Ft. Richardson during deployment.

Drackovitch says the 6-12 episode series will focus in on real lives of a few Alaska military families.

Drackovitch says the project is good fit for her company, which also produced a documentary on the Black Hawk down incident.  Drackovitch has an Alaska connection.  She says her mom’s family has deep roots in the state, and her childhood was spent in Anchorage, when her father was deployed to Korea and Vietnam.

Drackovitch says she’ll be back in Alaska working on casting in Anchorage and Fairbanks the week after Thanksgiving.  She says she’s already heard from hundreds of people interested in being on the show.  Filming is planned for late winter through early June, with  the series likely going to air late next year.  The Army is supportive of the project, and 44 Blue has been working with military officials for several month getting necessary approvals.