AG says Begich attack ad ‘inappropriate’ and ‘has no basis in fact’

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released an inflammatory television commercial featuring a former sergeant from the Anchorage Police Department, talking about a horrific crime that happened last year in Anchorage, where a two year old was raped, and two of her elderly relatives were murdered. The victims were from Cambodia. The murdered couple had survived the Khmer Rouge. The ad lays the blame for the crimes on GOP Senate challenger Dan Sullivan, who was the state’s former Attorney General.

The ad is the closest thing to a Willie Horton ad that we have ever seen in Alaska. One of the differences is that Willie Horton– the Massachusetts man who raped a woman while on furlough during Gov. George Dukakis’ term– was already convicted and doing time for his crime when Republican political operatives took hold of the issue.

Jerry Active, the man accused of the crimes in Anchorage, pleaded not guilty and is still in jail, awaiting trial, which is scheduled to start Sept. 22.

The current attorney general Michael Geraghty sent out a statement on Saturday, saying the charge against Sullivan, “has no basis in fact.” Geraghty also said that “drawing attention to the case,” is “inappropriate and offensive,” given that it’s an open case.

Sullivan shot back with his own commercial. He went so far as to name the accused, something that Begich’s ad didn’t do.

If the crime continues to be used in the campaign, it will likely delay what will already be an expensive, and emotionally charged trial.

Active had been recently released from jail in 2013 when he allegedly committed the crimes.
Due to his criminal history, he probably should not have been on the streets. However, because of an error in a state data base maintained by the Department of Public Safety, which prosecutors and the courts rely on to determine a defendant’s history, he was given a light sentence in 2010 for a sexual assault offense. He was given that sentence when Senate candidate Dan Sullivan was the state’s attorney general. A state prosecutor and the court all signed off on the plea agreement.

Sullivan was not the AG when any of Active’s crimes occurred, nor when the mistake in the database was made. Sullivan says he’s is in no way culpable for the crimes.

A spokesperson with the AG’s office said that she couldn’t talk in detail about the case for fear of sullying a jury pool.

Indeed, if Begich or any group associated with him continues with the ads—which is likely—and if Active goes to trial, it will be difficult to find any juror who hasn’t heard of him, in the same way that it’s hard to conceive of many people in Massachusetts not having heard of Willy Horton.

Rex Butler, a high-profile Anchorage based defense lawyer who is not involved in the case, called the ads “exploitive” and predicted that the major cities will be saturated with them. “These two politicians are stars,” he said. “People will listen to them.”

He said that if he were the defense attorney on the case, he would make a stab at asking the judge for an injunction to squelch the ads. However, because First Amendment rights are involved, that would be difficult. The defense could ask that the case be moved to another community, perhaps in rural Alaska. But even then, finding a big enough jury pool in rural Alaska is difficult in the best of circumstances.

Basically, Butler said, “there is no remedy.” Which is a shame, he said, because everyone, including the victims and the state, have a stake in ensuring that all defendants have a fair trial with an unbiased jury pool.

In an interview, Tim Petumenos, a former state prosecutor, who is also a Democrat,  said that another option is for the judge to agree to delay the trial until memories fade.

Petumenos has prosecuted many high-profile cases in Alaska, including the sensational 1980s Mackay murder trial. Because of the publicity, the case was moved from Anchorage to Fairbanks. In addition, he interviewed every juror individually to ensure they hadn’t been biased by the publicity. Jury selection normally takes two days at most. The jury selection in that case took four weeks.

In the end, regardless of how much publicity the crime gets, “it’s not going to derail the case,” Petumenos said. “But it could delay it. And it will be more expensive,” Petumenos said.

Aside from how the politicization of the case could affect the trial, Petumenos questioned if the ad targeting Sullivan is fair. He worked in the state’s attorney general’s office, and he said that he knows that the AG rarely, if ever, oversees specific plea deals. “It’s a political judgment call,” he said about using the case against Sullivan, one that could be seen as a stretch. “Could you also hang this on the governor?” he asked.

Petumenos also brought up Willie Horton and the ad campaign using his crime to derail Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign. He said that he sees similarities between the way that Horton’s crimes were used, and the way Active’s crimes are being used. “History hasn’t smiled,” on those who made the ads, he said. “And I’m a Democrat.”

He didn’t mention that the ads worked, and George H. W. Bush, not Dukakis, was elected president.

Contact Amanda Coyne


10 thoughts on “AG says Begich attack ad ‘inappropriate’ and ‘has no basis in fact’

  1. Anonymous

    It will take as long as it takes to get a spot produced highlighting L48 Dan’s role in the National Guard sexual assault/rape scandal. Did the Marine willingly go along the Army TAG’s plan to shoot, shovel and shut up, or did he demand that something be done about the problem ?

    Dan Sullivan has not publicly gone on the record explaining exactly what his role in the Alaska National Guard rape/sexual assault scandal was.
    December 2010: Female National Guard Victims Of Sexual Assault Submitted Written And Verbal Statements About Misconduct To Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Katie TePas.
    Dan Sullivan was appointed Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by Governor Sean Parnell in December 2010 and was unanimously confirmed by the Alaska Legislature in April 2011

  2. Donna B

    The Begich campaign is morally bankrupt, and this ad proves it. There’s a reason that Mark Begich and his campaign are hiding behind the Alaska Democratic Party on this. The only question is how long will it take before they have to take this false ad off the air.

  3. Lynn Willis

    Don’t you think Geraghty’s statement issued on a Saturday immediately following the Begich commercial was not anything but politically motivated? So we don’t have a politicized Attorney General’s office now? That would be a constant anyway; however, with an elected A.G. he or she would absolutely understand who hires and fires them and it would not be the Governor. As far as getting worse following “Polar Pen” and the examples I cited, exactly how much worse could it get? All Polar Pen did was let in the Feds and we all remember how that worked out for Begich.

  4. Jon K

    Lynn, I’m saying all systems have flaws but we would be creating bigger problems by politicizing the AGs office and by having an AG spending time raising money for campaigns and serving donors.

  5. Garand Fellow

    For me the big issue here is that Begich is willing to be untruthful! One implication is that all Alaska Marines will now be motivated to help Afghan Dan. Marines will not allow an untruth to smear the reputation of one of their own.

    The Sullivan record on pushing back against gun control is clear and unblemished. Sullivan took the side of gun owners and the NRA with the case(s) in the US Supreme Court.

    On the other hand, Mark Begich signed Anchorage onto the Bloomberg Mayors against Guns, and he hired chief gun control advocate Celinda Lake as a campaign adviser. I am still waiting to hear where Begich is on stand your ground.

  6. Lynn Willis

    So you would argue that an appointed AG doesn’t, even if vicariously, serve; “money and campaign donors”. They all do that Jon. In Alaska you can add the Governor to the top of that list to be served, which is even worse. Think about the LIO, Port of Anchorage, Crime Lab, Sulfolane spill and a few other gems that might have well had a politically motivated A.G. to “unleash the hounds on the clowns”. Instead the A.G. gets a frown from the “man” and all Alaskans hear are the crickets

  7. Mae

    “Has the Party addressed former Attorney General Dan Sullivan’s record on gun control issues? When in 2010, as the State’s Attorney General Dan came out against Mark Neuman’s 2010 ‘Stand your Ground Law’ saying that it would “encourage unnecessary violence.” Do we, as Republicans, not think that Senator Begich will use everything he can, such as this point, to win the Race? While he served as Attorney General, it was revealed that AG Sullivan’s prosecutors were reducing charges against convicted sex offenders. His office defended this practice by saying the Department had limited resources and this was not a priority. Has the Party examined Dan’s apparent “softness” on issues regarding domestic violence when he was in a position to come down hard on these types of crimes? …”
    Gail Phillips, Peninsula Clarion’s Voices of Alaska April 23, 2014.

    So L48 Dan apparently has admitted, that being hard on sex offenders was not his priority.
    Gee, but standing behind a Choose Respect banner is?

    For those of you disgusted with Begich for producing such a ad, think about how L48 Dan has decided to reduce sex offenders sentences while he was AG.

    Question is: how many sex offender’s sentences were reduced and are now roaming Alaska?
    Meanwhile L48 Dan didn’t have to worry. He was busy getting a tax exemption for his residency in Maryland.

    L48 Dan is NOT always working for Alaskans, as he so claims.

  8. Jon K

    Lynn, electing AG’s isn’t going to bring about independence. Instead of serving the Governor, the AG will be tempted to serve money and campaign donors. If we want to limit the influence of money in government this is not the way to go.

  9. Lynn Willis

    Now the current State Attorney General enters (re-enters?) the fray. Perhaps this is a side issue; however,should a sitting State Attorney General even appear to be riding to the political rescue of his predecessor when both are members of the same political party? If,in fact,an investigation of this horrible blunder and injustice was accomplished by the current A.G. then that should have been the end of his participation.
    Would an elected Attorney General directly responsible to the voters be so partisan? What if Dan Sullivan had not been a member of the same political party as Michael Geraghty, current State Attorney General appointed by Governor Parnell? Michael Geraghty is not at all accountable to the citizens of Alaskam, he only answers to the one “that brung him to the dance”.
    We need an Attorney General to act as an advocate for Alaskans, not to serve as a “consigliere” to the Governor’s and the Governor’s political allies. After this, will we now finally see legislation to amend the Constitution to allow for direct election of the A.G. in Alaska?

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