Fairbanks Four released after judge approves settlement

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A Superior Court Judge has approved a settlement that throws out the indictments and murder convictions of the Fairbanks Four — George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent — in the 1997 beating death of teenager John Hartman,  The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported late Thursday afternoon.

The paper said that more than 150 people had gathered outside a Fairbanks courtroom where an unscheduled hearing had been taking place. The men and prosecutors in the so-called Fairbanks Four case have been working on a proposed deal to free them.

The three Alaska Native men and an American Indian have always maintained their innocence in the death of 15-year-old John Hartman. The proposed deal comes as a judge considers a verdict in a separate civil action from the men seeking to have their convictions overturned. Alaska’s governor also is considering a pardon.

State prosecutors have vigorously defended the convictions, but they made the surprise offer to free the three remaining jailed men last week. In exchange, all four would not be allowed to sue government entities.

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