Republican Alaska U.S. senate challenger Dan Sullivan is accusing Democratic incumbent Mark Begich of lying in a television ad blaming Sullivan for the early prison release of a man accused of murdering two elderly people and sexually assaulting their young granddaughter.
The case involves Jerry Active, 25, who was arrested for the May 25, 2013 murder of a couple in Anchorage and of sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter.
The Begich campaign is using Active’s heinous act to attack Sullivan for being soft on crime, though Sullivan completely disputes the claim and says that Begich is exploiting the case for political gain.
“I don’t know how long Dan Sullivan lived in Alaska, but I know what he did as attorney general,” said retired Anchorage police officer Bob Glen in the ad, approved by Begich and released ahead of Labor Day weekend.
“He let a lot of sex offenders get off with light sentences. One of them got out of prison and is now charged with breaking into that apartment building, murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their two year old granddaughter.”
What is certain in the case is that if Alaska law would have been properly followed, Active would still been in prison for crimes he committed in 2009.
But Sullivan wasn’t even attorney general when Active was arrested, the challenger points out, also noting that an Alaska criminal database failed to pick up on Active’s previous crimes, which led to Active’s early release.
In 2007, Active pleaded guilty to a Class C felony for his role in a second-degree burglary and for providing alcohol to a minor. While the alcohol charge is normally a misdemeanor, it becomes a felony in Alaska when occurring in “local option communities.”
On Jan. 29, 2009, Active was arrested and charged with several crimes, including the attempted sexual abuse of an 11-year-old.
By Alaska law, the 2007 felony should have been considered in the 2009 case and triggered a minimum eight-year prison sentence.
But because of the unorthodox classification, the 2007 felony was not picked up in a search conducted by the Alaska Department of Public Safety of its Alaska Public Safety Information Network system.
All of that occurred before Sullivan became state attorney general. At the time of Active’s Jan. 2009 crimes, Sullivan, a former Bush administration official, was serving in the Marines. He was not appointed attorney general until several months later, in June 2009. He served in that capacity until Dec. 2010.
In Sept. 2010, Active was sentenced to four years in prison, plus time served, after he signed a plea deal on the 2009 case. He was released from prison in Oct. 2011, after Sullivan had left the attorney general position.
Active was arrested on probation violation several more times. He was released one last time just 12 hours before he allegedly committed the double murder and sexual assault in Anchorage.
State law enforcement officials have criticized Begich’s claim, saying it does not have merit.
“The recent TV advertisement attempting to hold Dan Sullivan responsible for a violent crime that took place in Anchorage, AK in May 2013 has no basis in fact,” said current state attorney general Michael Geraghty, a Republican. “Drawing publicity to the case in a political ad, and highlighting the home where a family suffered such a horrific tragedy, is inappropriate and offensive.”
Sullivan issued a rebuttal ad, as well as a statement saying that Begich “has no shame.”
“He is lying to Alaskans and using the murder of an elderly couple and the sexual assault of a two-year old for his own political gain, and it’s despicable,” Sullivan said.
The Begich campaign offered one more criticism of Sullivan, pointing to his signature on the 2010 plea deal that allowed for Active’s four-year sentence to be followed by four years of probation.
But Cori Milles, an assistant attorney general and spokeswoman for the Department of Law, defended Sullivan from that accusation, telling an Alaska political blogger that it would be impossible for any attorney general to know the details of every single case they sign off on.
“It is unreasonable to suggest that any attorney general reviews each pleading filed in court for the state; he or she relies on experienced prosecutors to file these documents,” Milles said.
Through their attorney, the family of Active’s victims told KTUU they strongly oppose Begich’s ad and the one quickly put up by Sullivan, saying that they could taint the jury pool convened to hear the case.
In response to the family’s wishes, the Sullivan campaign removed their rebuttal ad. While the Begich campaign said it will alter its ad, it did not agree to pull it down completely. It also casts blame on Sullivan for using Active’s name in the ad responding to Begich’s initial accusation.
“Dan Sullivan recklessly featured a name from a pending court case in a television ad, as an attorney and former attorney general he should have known better. His TV ad very clearly needed to be pulled from the air,” said Max Croes, communications director for Alaskans for Begich.