ATTORNEY GENERAL EFFORT TO AVOID WITNESS TAMPERING INVESTIGATION DENIED
Ball Back In Palin AG's Court, AG Called On Again To Assist In Independent Criminal Investigation
ANCHORAGE -- Today the Independent Investigator hired by Alaska's Personnel Board in Alaska's Troopergate investigation told Governor Palin's Attorney General that he, not the Personnel Board, should look into criminal witness tampering questions raised by the McCain Campaign's conduct in Alaska. "The Attorney General should do the right thing. Even campaign staff for a Presidential ticket he and Governor Palin support aren't above the law," said Alaska Representative Les Gara (D-Anch.).
In September and October McCain staff were sent to Alaska to stop the Legislature's Troopergate investigation, and questions were raised whether they had a role in convincing witnesses not to show up for subpoenas - which would be a crime under Alaska law. Last month Rep. Gara called on the State's Attorney General to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible criminal witness tampering. Rep. Les Gara's call came at the suggestion of the Director of the Alaska State Troopers, who called the potential of witness tampering matter "serious."
Governor Palin's Attorney General, Talis Colberg, denied the request, saying the Personnel Board should look into this potential criminal conduct. This week the Personnel Board returned the issue back to the Attorney General, saying he, not the Personnel Board, has jurisdiction over criminal campaign matters.
Director of the State Troopers, Colonel Audie Holloway, suggested in a September letter that the state call on the State Troopers to hire an independent investigator. The letters between Holloway, Colberg, the Personnel Board and Gara are attached.
Over the past two months, McCain-Palin campaign staff tried to stop the Alaska legislature's bi-partisan Troopergate investigation, which recently concluded with a report that that the state's ethics law was broken. See Michael Isakoff, Newsweek, "Can He Stop Troopergate?" (Sept. 16, 2008).
"Until Senator McCain sent campaign staff up here on August 29, everyone, including the Governor, agreed the Legislature's investigation was proper. After the McCain staffers arrived, people who were willing to testify starting violating their subpoenas. It's not rocket science that someone worked to change their minds, and that's a crime under Alaska law," said Rep. Gara.
The legislative investigation was initiated by a bi-partisan committee of 8 Republicans and 4 Democrats in July, before Governor Palin was named to the McCain ticket. On October 10 that committee voted unanimously to release the independent investigator's report, finding one ethics violation, and finding that the Attorney General had improperly withheld documents.
Alaska's witness tampering law makes it a crime to "attempt" to "induce" a person not to show up for a legislative subpoena. See statutes below. Approximately 10 witnesses failed to show for subpoenas during the Legislature's investigation into whether Governor Palin or her staff acted improperly in seeking the firing of her former brother-in-law, a State Trooper. After failing to cooperate with subpoenas, these witnesses have since provided written statements.
Starting on August 29, the McCain campaign tried to create public pressure to stop the investigation with near-daily press conferences, and participated in unsuccessful legal efforts to try to stop the investigation.
A separate investigation by the State's Personnel Board is ongoing.
For further information, contact Rep. Les Gara with questions at (907) 250-0106.
Alaska's witness tampering statutes follow:
Alaska Statute 11.56.545 -
"(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor. (Emphasis added).
AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.