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Budget proposal could ground some Alaska DPS aircraft

A budget proposal could wind up grounding two Alaska Department of Public Safety search-and-rescue helicopters, and a plane capable of prisoner and personnel transports. A House subcommittee Thursday denied a $2.4 million DPS budget request related to the department's aviation unit. The subcommittee decided that given the state's budget situation, adding in the eight new workers the department wants doesn't make sense. Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger said if the money isn't added, the National Guard and private companies would have to pick up the slack. He did leave open the possibility smaller Public Safety helicopters could be used. The subcommittee's recommendation will be considered as the House Finance Committee crafts its version of the operating budget. Whatever passes the House will have to be considered by the Senate.

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Junior Iditarod set to start, end near Cantwell

Following its larger sister race, the Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race has also shifted north, with the round-trip race starting and ending near Cantwell after a Tuesday decision to move it for the second time. The race for mushers 14 to 17 years of age, also called the Jr. Iditarod, usually begins at Knik Lake. It had previously been shifted to the Willow area, but race organizers Barb and Raymie Redington said this year’s March 1 start had to be moved again. “Due to extremely icy conditions in the Willow area, the decision to move the race was made (Tuesday),” the Redingtons wrote in an email late Wednesday. Mushers will depart on the new route at noon on March 1. “The dog teams will leave from the parking lot area on the Denali Highway and mush in to the halfway checkpoint which will be at the Alpine Creek Lodge,” race officials wrote. “The Jr.'s will complete their 10-hour mandatory layover there and mush back to the finish on Monday, March 2.” The Cantwell School will host a mushers’ banquet March 2. More information on the Junior Iditarod can be found at its website.

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Public policy group suggests state re-negotiate's state workers' contracts

A public policy group said Alaska should take a second look at its contract with state workers.

In a report released by Commonwealth North, the group made a recommendation that the state re-negotiate with union workers in the state. The recommendation comes as one of 26 recommendations made by the group in it's report, "The State's Operating Budget: Critical Crossroads, Choices and Opportunities."

Commonwealth North co-chair of the fiscal policy study group, Cheryl Frasca said the state is in a position where everyone has to accept changes.

"We have a very dramatic problem," Frasca said, "dramatic in terms of the revenue shortfall and it's likely to not get a lot better."

The Executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association disagrees with this view. ASEA represents about 9,000 state employees. ASEA's Jim Duncan said the costs were overstated by Frasca. He also said previous negotiations may bean employees gave up other things in order to have health care insurance. He said he wasn't surprised at the recommendation about state workers. 

"I think we're an easy target." Duncan said, "I think we're always an easy target.

Duncan pointed out that the last contract doesn't expire until the summer of 2016. He said a negotiation before the contract is up would require a decision from the union's board.

The governor's office said it hasn't made any plans in response to the report. It is still under review.



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'Death with Dignity' bill sparks tough conversation

Inspired by the story of a 29 year-old woman who chose to end her life under Oregon's "Right to Die" law, an Alaska lawmaker has introduced similar legislation.

"I was very touched by the story of a young woman named Brittany Maynard," said Rep. Harriet Drummond who introduced HB99.

Maynard garnered national attention last fall when she went public with her plans to end her life at home, on November 1. She was battling terminal brain cancer. Maynard and her husband had to move from their home in Califronia, to Oregon, to take advantage of that state's Death with Dignity Act.

"It occurred to me that Alaskans would have to disrupt their lives and travel a long way to take advantage of Oregon's law," said Rep. Drummond. "I think Alaska is ready for a law like this, or at least to have the conversation."

HB99 would allow a terminally ill patient, given a diagnosis of no more than six months to live, the chance to formally request life-ending medication. The patient would need a diagnosis from two different physicians and would need to request the medication on two separate occassions, two weeks apart.

"There's a process to ensure there's no coersion. The person has to be in full control of their faculties so they can make this decision on their own, with the assistance of experts," said Rep. Drummond.

Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action, said he has many concerns about physician-assisted suicide becoming legal in Alaska.

"We understand the motivation by the other side to have a compassionate tone in what they want to do but we're very much in agreement with the American Medical Association in that, this is really, fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role to heal," said Minnery.

He said there are also concerns about potential opportunities for abuse of the law.

"The right to die quickly becomes sort of the duty to die," said Minnery.

According to Drummond, 70 percent of the patients who are given the prescriptions in Oregon never use them.

"Simply having the prescriptions give them the peace of mind," she said.

She added it's hard to tell if the bill will be heard on the floor this legislative session.



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Medicaid abortion court case wraps up but likely to be back in court

Attorneys representing the State of Alaska and Planned Parenthood made closing arguments regarding medicaid funded abortions, Wednesday. The judge tasked with deciding which side prevails said more than likely his decision will be reversed.

"As we all know I'm a speed bump on the way to the supreme court," said Judge John Suddock. " I don't think there's any superior court judge that makes a decision in this area that doesn't get reversed." 

In this case Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is arguing to have a statute that limits when medicaid will cover abortions thrown out. It says women on Medicaid already struggle to make ends meet and denying them a free abortion would be unfair.

"A $600 medical procedure, or more depending on the gestation of her pregnancy can present a substantial or even insurmountable obstacle," said Autmn Katz with the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

At the end of 2014 Alaska lawmakers changed a statute regarding medicaid to say an abortions will only be covered when one is "medically necessary" to prevent a woman from undergoing bodily harm or death.

Planned Parenthood says that definition isn't broad enough. It takes a big issue with mental health not being listed as one of the 21 conditions that would qualify for a medically necessary abortion.

It says the distress of going through with an unwanted pregnancy should be reason enough to terminate. In court, an alternative definition was offered up, one adapted from a current statute regarding autism spectrum disorder.

"A medically necessary abortion would mean any care treatment, intervention, service or item prescribed by a licensed physician in accordance with accepted standards of practice that will or is reasonably expected to prevent the onset of an illness, condition or injury or reduce or ameliorate the physical or mental effects of an illness, condition or injury<" said Katz.

Attorneys for the state argue that the way lawmakers have worded the statute for abortions is not only fitting but also in accordance with how Medicaid works when deciding what procedures to cover or not.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton Walsh says, "there's nothing unusual about the way abortion is being treated here and in fact many procedures and medications are subject to much more stringent layers of review."

Judge Suddock expects to make a decision regarding the statute soon.  



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Cargo ship held in environmental crimes investigation cleared to leave Alaska

A cargo ship that has been detained in an Alaska harbor amid an environmental crimes investigation has been cleared to leave port.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis tells The Associated Press that the German operator and owner of the 600-foot Lindavia entered into a security agreement and posted a bond Thursday.

As part of the security agreement, a portion of the crew of about 20 will remain in Alaska until the investigation is complete.

When the ship entered port Feb. 12, the crew notified the Coast Guard that it suffered damage to some navigation lights and radar systems in storms while en route to Alaska from China. Coast Guard officials noticed the possible environmental crimes when they boarded the ship to check damage.

Feldis declined to provide details of the alleged crimes while the case is being investigated.



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Third suspect arrested in Emmonak crowbar assault

One person has been medevaced to Bethel from the western Alaska village of Emmonak, after Alaska State Troopers say three suspects assaulted him overnight Wednesday with a crowbar and a pistol. Troopers say in an AST dispatch that they were informed at about 12:15 a.m. Thursday of the assault, allegedly committed by a trio of Emmonak residents: Doran Jennings, 23, Jereith Jimmy, 21, and Karl Kelly, 21. Kelly was initially at large Thursday morning. “Investigation revealed that (the suspects) were consuming homebrew alcohol and then left their residence and went to a residence next door and assaulted the male occupant using a metal crowbar,” troopers wrote. “Doran Jennings then pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and held it to the head of the male he just assaulted, and made statements to him that he would kill him.” Another family member in the home was also assaulted during the encounter, according to troopers. “Doran Jennings then walked over to the female adult, who is his sister, and physically assaulted her,” troopers wrote. “Jennings then held the handgun up to his sister's head and made statements that he would kill her and her two children if she called the cops. Jennings then fired four rounds from his handgun striking the wall near where his sister was standing, and then all three suspects fled the residence.” An arriving trooper was able to apprehend Jennings at the scene, as well as Jimmy at a nearby home, after brief struggles with each suspect. After a brief search, Kelly was taken into custody without incident at about 11:30 a.m. The male victim in the assault was medevaced with serious internal injuries, with both the trooper and Jennings suffering minor injuries during Jennings’ arrest. AST spokesman Tim Despain said all three suspects in the assault will be taken to Bethel. Numerous charges have been filed in the incident, including one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief, two counts each of first-degree assault and second-degree misconduct involving weapons, three counts of first-degree burglary, and four counts of third-degree assault.



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AST: Man Tased, arrested after throwing drugs into Anchorage Jail

An Anchorage man on felony probation who allegedly threw a packet of drugs into the Anchorage Jail was chased down and Tased by Alaska State Troopers Wednesday afternoon. Troopers say in a Thursday AST dispatch that Kevin Sathre, 28, was observed throwing "what is suspected to be drugs" over a fence on the jail's south side, at about noon Wednesday, by investigators with the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit. Troopers’ attempt to speak with Sathre turned into a foot chase along 5th Avenue. “Investigators pursued Sathre on foot as Sathre disrupted traffic on 5th Avenue,” troopers wrote. “During the foot pursuit, Sathre was Tased and taken into custody without further incident. Sathre was not injured and did not require medical assistance.” AST spokesman Tim DeSpain said Thursday afternoon that the drugs thrown into the jail had subsequently been identified as marijuana and tobacco. Sathre was arrested on first-degree and second-degree counts of promoting contraband, as well as fifth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances and resisting arrest. He was remanded to the Anchorage Jail.



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North Pole Refinery tax assessment cut by more than half

A proposed property assessment for the idle oil refinery at North Pole is valuing the land and buildings at less than half of what they were worth last year. Flint Hills Resources Alaska stopped refining crude oil at the plant in June. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the lower assessment will mean sharply reduced tax revenue for North Pole. In the past, taxes on the property accounted for about 40 percent of the city's tax revenue. The refinery in 2014 was assessed at nearly $108 million. A Fairbanks North Star Borough assessment notice Monday put a preliminary value on land and property at just less than $47.9 million.



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Two Fairbanks residents arrested in inmate income-tax fraud

An arrested Fairbanks couple allegedly used information on inmates at Alaska correctional facilities to file nearly 100 false federal income-tax returns, collecting more than $160,000 over a four-year period. U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler’s office said Thursday that Earl Worthy and Tammy Jean Jackson, both 39, had been arrested Tuesday in the case. “Worthy and Jackson were indicated by a federal grand jury on February 18, 2015, for one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims; seven counts of mail fraud; and seven counts of aggravated identity theft,” prosecutors wrote. Worthy and Jackson’s alleged scheme unfolded between May 2009 and September 2012. “Many of the returns were filed for inmates at correctional facilities and in some instances the identifying information was used without the knowledge or permission of the person in question,” prosecutors wrote. “Approximately 95 false tax returns claiming approximately $214,560 in fraudulent refund claims were submitted in the scheme.” In an indictment againt Worthy, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven E. Skrocki said the plan relied on the submission of fake wages and tax withholdings, on fabricated W-2 income-tax forms. The forms were mailed to the IRS from addresses in Anchorage and Fairbanks, as well as Tucson, Ariz. “During the course of the conspiracy, the conspirators prepared and submitted by mail approximately 95 false tax returns using the names and (Social Security numbers) of approximately 55 individuals, these false tax returns claimed approximately $214,560 in total fraudulent refund claims, and illegally obtained approximately $160,000 in fraudulent refund claims paid by the United States Treasury,” Skrocki wrote. Some of the refund checks were sent directly to Fairbanks Correctional Center inmates’ addresses. “In the cases where refunds were issued via paper Treasury checks, the checks were mailed to the addresses listed by the conspirators on the tax returns which, in most cases, was the Fairbanks Correctional Center or addresses associated with, and used by the conspirators,” Skrocki wrote. “In the cases where the refunds were directly deposited into a bank account, the bank account was in the name of a conspirator.”

Skrocki said Thursday afternoon that a number of inmates were receiving kickbacks for the use of their personal information. He declined to say how Worthy and Jackson obtained that information or whether they had connections with access to FCC inmates' records, citing the ongoing investigation.

"The majority, if not all the inmates in the indictment were (FCC)," Skrocki said. "Some inmates, it's alleged, were receiving cash, and Ms. Jackson was receiving cash." Both Worthy and Jackson face maximum 20-year prison terms and $250,000 fines if convicted.



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APD seeks 3 suspects in October assault on Downtown cabbie

Three people who severely beat a cab driver in Downtown Anchorage last fall, dragging him from his vehicle to punch and kick him, are being sought by Anchorage police as they continue to investigate the case. According to a statement from APD spokeswoman Anita Shell, the driver picked up the suspects -- described by police as two black males and an Alaska Native female -- on Oct. 4 in West Anchorage. When the driver dropped them off near 5th Avenue’s intersection with E Street, however, they began “punching and kicking him about the head and body causing facial fractures which required hospitalization.” Shell didn’t have specifics on where the suspects were taken before they were dropped off, but said they didn’t leave any payment after beating the driver. “It was a hundred-dollar fare, and they refused to pay and instead severely assaulted the driver when he asked for his money,” Shell said. “He was on the ground beaten, bloodied with both eyes swollen shut.” Shell said detectives were hoping to speak with people who either knew the suspects or had heard them talking about the assault. Anyone with information on the assault is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP or via its website.



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Minor injuries, major fuel spill in Dalton Highway tanker crash

As much as 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled after a tanker-truck crash on the Dalton Highway Wednesday, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. In a Thursday DEC statement on cleanup efforts, DEC officials say the tanker’s crash at Mile 86 of the highway was reported to state officials at about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. “A Colville (Inc.) tractor-trailer hauling fuel from Fairbanks lost traction and slid backward off the roadway and rolled into the ditch,” DEC officials wrote. “The rear compartment of the trailer ruptured when hitting a tree stump.” DEC spokesman Tom DeRuyter said there weren’t any apparent serious injuries from the wreck. “The driver had a few bumps, and is going to be checked out at a hospital,” DeRuyter said. Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said troopers didn’t respond to the crash because the tractor-trailer was already off the road by the time it was reported. Colville, an Arctic logistics firm, estimated to DEC that between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel were spilled in the crash. The company hired Emerald Services (Alaska) Inc. to clean up the spill, with a vacuum truck, tow truck and empty tanker-trailer sent to the scene. “They’ve removed the truck from the ditch,” DeRuyter said. “They’ve pumped out the fuel from the truck, and it will get metered at a later time.” According to DeRuyter, further work is ongoing to plan and formulate a full response to the incident.



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Bethel man arraigned on murder charge in death of girlfriend

A 27-year-old Bethel man was arraigned on a charge he strangled his girlfriend after she annoyed him, and left her decomposing body in her apartment. KYUK reports bail was set at $500,000 for Mark Charlie II. A preliminary hearing is set March 6. Charlie was appointed a public defender. The agency didn't immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment. Charlie is charged in the death of 26-year-old LeeAnn Berlin. Police allege in an affidavit they found Berlin's decomposing body Monday under a blanket and Charlie in the apartment with empty alcohol bottles and pills. Police claim in the affidavit that he told officers he strangled her on either Feb. 17 or Feb. 18 when she nagged and annoyed him while they were drinking.



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Lawmaker says University budget cuts not enough

The University of Alaska sub-committee slashed a large amount of the University's budget for the coming year, Tuesday. These cuts come in addition to the cuts made by Governor Walker in his amended budget. However, some lawmakers are still unhappy with the numbers, saying the cuts should have been deeper.

In his amended budget, Governor Walker cut $9 million from the University of Alaska system while the University’s sub-committee slashed an additional $25 million, bringing it to a total of $34.  That equates to a 5.8 percent reduction for each of the three campuses. 

Student leaders call it a compromise, but the chair of a budget sub-committee is upset the University of Alaska system did not take a 10% reduction in its budget that most other agencies absorbed.

"I was really disappointed in the university that they did not want to take the same cuts at the Department of Education, they took a 19 percent.  I closed out the Department of Labor, they took a 20 percent,” said Rep. Tammie Wilson.

Representative Wilson was hoping for a figure north of 40 million.

"Some of my colleagues, they don't want their universities shut down, and we don't either, but we want to make we're doing this in a reasonable way, but to think that 10 percent was going to explode the university, I don't see it."

Student leaders, however, see job and program cuts in the future if the cuts go any deeper.

“It’s a tough year, we know there are lots of budgets to be cut, but we're really grateful they're funding the university at the rate they are,” said Callie Conerton, head of the Coalition of Student Leaders.

The university’s budget heads to the House Finance Committee where more changes can be made to it.



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Anchorage police issues first citations for public marijuana use

Anchorage police have issued the first three citations for public marijuana use, since the drug became legal in Alaska, Tuesday. 

All three citations were issued near the transit center police told Channel 2 News. 

APD wrote in a press release Wednesday, that the first citation was issued to a man outside the Downtown bus transit center on the 700 block of W 6th Avenue, at around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

He was issued a citation for public consumption which includes a $100 fine.

Police picked up the second case around 8:15 p.m. when an 18-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman were smoking outside near 6th Avenue and H Street.

Both individuals were issued with citations for public consumption, while the male was also charged with consuming under the age of 21, which is a misdemeanor offense. 

Anchorage Police Department spokesperson, Jennifer Castro said the even with citations, legalization of possession was relatively uneventful.

"We were hoping for the best and potentially preparing for the worst." Castro said.

The drug isn't available for recreational retail yet. Castro said some people have commented that it doesn't seem like there's a big difference since legalization.

"But there's a huge difference," Castro said. "If I had an ounce on me 3 days ago, there could be some big criminal prosecution."

Legalization activist, Tim Hinterberger said overall, marijuana users were very responsible.

"Things are pretty much under control," Hinterberger said. "No need to panic."

Hinterberger says he enjoyed a quiet dinner with friends enjoying beers and pizza.

"It was fun to pull out a little baggie of pot and put it on the table with no fear of getting arrested, but we pretty much just stuck to the legal brew," he said.

Marijuana consumption in a public place is prohibited within the Anchorage municipality and consumption under the age of 21 is still illegal. 

Editors note: Anchorage police issued a correction to include a third citation after the publication of this  story.



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Feds chronicle downfall of vicious Anchorage drug ring

Federal prosecutors say convicted members of an Anchorage drug conspiracy used brutal means to establish themselves, including imprisonment, “sexual torture” and ordering its victims to kill each other. At a Wednesday press conference to further discuss the conspiracy, members of U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler’s office displayed seized assault rifles, handguns and drugs, and duct tape used to bind the group’s victims. The defendants distributed heroin, crack, cocaine and methamphetamine in 2013, authorities allege, following an 18-month investigation to close a long-running case against those involved. A statement issued after the event named the conspiracy members: Stuart T. Seugasala, 40, also known as “Tone,” Timothy Miller, 26, also known as “Lil Tone” Anoai Sialofi, 26, also known as “A-Loc” Phosavan Khamnivong, 35, also known as “P.K.” Laura Khamnivong, 33, Phosavan Khamnivong’s wife Three defendants -- Miller, Sialofi, and Laura Khamnivong -- entered guilty pleas prior to trial, with Miller and Sialofi pleading guilty to kidnapping and Laura Khamnivong pleading guilty to conspiring to commit drug trafficking. Two separate federal juries convicted Seugasala on Jan. 16 and Phosavan Khamnivong on Tuesday of the same crimes: one count of drug conspiracy, plus two counts each of kidnapping and using firearms in the furtherance of those crimes. Seugasala was also convicted on two felony counts of violating the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. Anchorage police said all of the conspiracy’s members except Laura Khamnivong were charged in August 2013, with the men involved conducting “missions” to take controlled substances from other drug suppliers. Seugasala, Sialofi and Miller were arrested, but Khamnivong remained at large until December of that year, when U.S. marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration members took him into custody at a South Anchorage home. SPENARD ‘MISSION’ SEES DEADLY FORCE The conspiracy suffered a blow in February 2013 when U.S. Postal Service inspectors seized more than five pounds of methamphetamine Seugasala, Phosavan Khamnivong and Miller had arranged to be sent to Alaska from California. At trial prosecutors said the group lost another pound of meth in the same timeframe. Some of the group’s brazen conduct was on display during a “mission” the next month, on March 13, 2013, at a Spenard apartment where Seugasala had lured two men to collect drug debts. “When the victims entered, (Phosavan) Khamnivong, Miller, and Sialofi drew guns on the victims, duct-taped them, beat them, and tortured them for approximately three hours,” prosecutors wrote. Seugasala used a hot curling iron to sexually assault a male victim while Phosavan Khamnivong held him down. “Seugasala instructed Miller to videotape the rape of Victim A, which Miller did,” prosecutors wrote. “Seugasala later showed the video to others to intimidate them and to show them what would happen if they didn't repay their drug debts.” Both men had guns placed to their heads before the second victim was given a gun and ordered to shoot Victim A on pain of death. The two weren’t released until they were forcibly taken to a strip club, where Victim A agreed to pay Phosavan Khamnivong $50,000. In addition to specific allegations during the Spenard incident, prosecutors said Seugasala routinely used coercion and worse during the course of his business. “Seugasala would imprison drug users and others in his apartment, located at 1046 W. 26th Avenue, as well as his video gaming business, ‘Friendly Fire’ in Anchorage,” prosecutors wrote. “He sometimes tortured individuals who owed him money or disrespected him or others in his organization. Seugasala and his accomplices burned people with cigarettes, sexually assaulted them, used firearms on them, and assaulted them in other ways.” SURVEILLANCE HELPS BREAK CASE Law enforcement placed Phosavan Khamnivong under surveillance during the spring of 2013, leading to an APD traffic stop May 16 of that year. “When the police officer notified Khamnivong that he planned to search Khamnivong’s vehicle, Khamnivong smashed his car into two patrol vehicles and fled the scene, ultimately escaping,” prosecutors wrote. “A citizen found a discarded pistol near (Steller Secondary School), which was along the route that Khamnivong's vehicle followed while escaping.” Members of APD and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force also followed Laura Khamnivong to a parking lot where she was seen placing a plastic bag in a vehicle. “APD obtained a search warrant and found two guns, a small amount of methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia in the bag,” prosecutors wrote. Drug Enforcement Administration surveillance conducted on Seugasala in Anchorage on May 20, 2013, led to an APD stop. Seugasala had already spent 10 years in federal prison for two drug-conspiracy convictions in 2000, so officers contacted the U.S. Probation Office, which asked police to search Seugasala’s person and vehicle. “The police seized nearly $8,000 and Seugasala's cellular telephone,” prosecutors wrote. “The DEA executed a search warrant on the phone and found the text exchanges between (Stacy Laulu) and Seugasala, as well as text messages with Miller on March 13 to arrange the kidnappings.” During Seugasala’s arrest on June 12, 2013, U.S. Probation Office members found more money, as well as a phone Miller had used to call Seugasala and Phosavan Khamnivong while obtaining drugs in California. OTHER DEFENDANTS EMERGE Prosecutors allege three other defendants emerged at various points related to the March 2013 “mission” and sexual assault. Members of the conspiracy used 33-year-old Stacy Laulu -- then a financial counselor at Providence Alaska Medical Center -- to illegally keep track of Victim A as he was being treated. “The testimony at trial was that Laulu's husband was a close associate of Seugasala, and that Seugasala and Miller continued to deliver drug money to Laulu and Laulu's husband, who was in jail on unrelated murder charges,” prosecutors wrote. “Seugasala communicated by text message to Laulu and requested information on Victim A's medical condition and whether he was cooperating with authorities investigating the sexual assault.” Laulu also passed on information about a man who was wounded two days later on March 15, when he insulted a companion of Seugasala’s at a local restaurant and Seugasala allegedly retaliated by opening fire on his vehicle as he drove away. Rounds fired that night “disfigured the man's pinky, as well as grazed his neck.” Seugasala’s federal jury also convicted Laulu of two HIPAA violations for illegally providing that information. During Phosavan Khamnivong’s trial, Jason McAnulty was allegedly asked to relay a bribe offer to the sexually assaulted man in that case. “The message was that if Victim A did not testify against Khamnivong at trial, Victim A would receive a classic automobile that belonged to Khamnivong,” prosecutors wrote. “The DEA recorded conversations between McAnulty and Victim A to confirm this attempted bribe. McAnulty was arrested and charged with attempted witness tampering.” A federal magistrate judge ordered McAnulty detained until a grand jury could hear a presentation of the case against him. A drug delivery to Valdez by Miller on April 23, 2013, resulted in Valdez police arresting Miller as well as a woman, Devon Totemoff. “Valdez police seized Miller's telephone and got a search warrant for it,” prosecutors wrote. “The Alaska State Troopers executed the search warrant on the phone and ultimately found the sexual assault video from March 13.” LONG POTENTIAL SENTENCES According to prosecutors, Seugasala and Khamnivong are likely to spend life in prison depending on the outcome of their sentencings. “Seugasala faces mandatory life imprisonment on the drug conspiracy conviction, (and) two maximum life sentences on the kidnapping and firearms convictions,” prosecutors wrote. “Both he and Laulu face a maximum of ten years imprisonment on each of the HIPAA convictions.” Phosavan Khamnivong pleaded guilty in 1998 to second-degree murder in a state case as an accomplice to the 1997 killing of Kodiak cab driver Jimmy Butron. After serving a 25-year sentence with 10 years suspended, Khamnivong was serving probation for the Kodiak murder. “Khamnivong now faces the possibility of three federal life sentences without the possibility of parole for the drug conspiracy and two kidnappings, to be followed by additional time for the firearms convictions,” prosecutors wrote. “Khamnivong also faces eight years in state prison for violating his probation and parole.” Loeffler, the U.S. attorney whose office prosecuted the case, thanked the numerous federal, state and local law-enforcement organizations which participated in making and prosecuting the wide-ranging case. “We are blessed in Alaska to have such a strong working relationship between and among our law enforcement agencies and partners and we will remain committed to the arrest and conviction of these violent individuals and organizations,” Loeffler said. U.S. Chief District Court Judge Ralph Beistline scheduled sentencing hearings from late April through early May for various defendants in the cases. Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately said Phosavan Khamnivong, not Seugasala, had opened fire on a man's vehicle leaving a South Anchorage restaurant, and incorrectely stated Devon Totemoff's gender.

Channel 2’s Rick Schleyer contributed information to this story.



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Girdwood Alaska State Troopers post set to close next year

Citing budget cuts, the Alaska State Troopers are planning to close the Girdwood trooper post at the intersection of the Seward and Alyeska highways effective next year. In a Tuesday letter to Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew obtained by Channel 2, AST Director Col. James Cockrell said that while the decision was “difficult,” the post’s planned closure on Jan. 1, 2016 was the result of belt-tightening across state departments. “This decision was made necessary to address staffing needs elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula and the likelihood of continued budget and staffing reductions in the coming years,” Cockrell wrote. “It is also generally believed that the Municipality of Anchorage should provide police services within their boundaries.” Cockrell said that troopers planned to provide two or three Bureau of Highway Patrol troopers to continue patrols along the Seward Highway, but that their duties would be limited to highway enforcement, search and rescue, and backing up APD officers.

APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro directed questions on the post's closure to Mayor Dan Sullivan's spokesman, Bryce Hyslip. Hyslip was reviewing the letter Wednesday and didn't have immediate comment. A message left with AST spokeswoman Megan Peters seeking further comment wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday morning. Channel 2's Abby Hancock and Mike Nederbrock contributed information to this story.

This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.



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'Flying Iron' snowmachines take to the air

The Iron Dog snowmachine race began with a first-ever ceremonial start Feb. 21 in Anchorage. But first, snowmachiners of a different stripe demonstrated that not all sleds have to stay on the ground. All photos courtesy of Iron Dog. 



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UPDATE: One westbound lane on 15th Avenue opened up

UPDATE: Police say that one west-bound lane on 15th Avenue has now been opened up.

"Eastbound lanes may be closed awhile as police clean up accident," police wrote. 

ORIGINAL STORY: All lanes are closed on 15th Avenue between Medfra Street and Sitka Street due to an accident with injuries, police announced on their public information twitter account. 

Police ask that people avoid this area while they respond to the scene of the accident. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.



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Eastside Cook Inlet beaches closed to clamming due to low clam population

Eastside Cook Inlet beaches have been closed down for clamming this year due to a plummeting density of mature and juvenile razor clams in the Ninilchik and Clam Gulch areas, the Department of Fish and Game announced in a press release Monday. 

The closure, that will come into effect on March 1 and continue till the end of the year, will prohibit taking any clam species from Eastside beaches, officials wrote in a press release. The area that will be included in the closure will span the mouth of Kenai River to the southern most tip of Homer Spit. 

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Officials say that an abundance study conducted in 2014 revealed that the average number of mature razor clams in the Ninilchik area was roughly a whopping 80% lower than averages taken from previous years. 

"The cause of the decline in razor clam abundance on Eastside beaches is unknown but is thought to have resulted from poor spawning and/or settling success," officials wrote. 

This regulation will not affect recreational clamming on the Westside Cook Inlet beaches.



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