Politics

Attorney Slams Begich Campaign For Refusing To Take Down ‘Offensive’ Ad

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

An attorney for the family of an Alaska couple murdered last year sent a scathing letter to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich claiming that his political ad using the couple’s case to attack Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is “inciting” the family and “tearing [it] apart.”

Bryon Collins, the family attorney, sent the letter, titled “Second Demand To Take Down All Case References And Ads,” to Begich on Monday.

“The family directly and without question has told your campaign they want no part of this,” Collins writes in the letter, obtained by The Daily Caller.

Collins was referring to an ad first aired by Begich’s campaign on Friday. (UPDATE: Begich Retracts Controversial Ad)

It refers to the case of Jerry Active, now 25, who allegedly murdered Touch Chea and Sorn Sreap, two elderly Cambodian-Americans, in Anchorage on May 25, 2013. Active is also accused of sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter.

But before that, Active had been charged in 2007 and 2009 for various crimes. He pleaded guilty to a Class C felony in the 2007 case which should have triggered an eight-year minimum prison sentence for his 2009 offense, which included the attempted sexual abuse of a minor.

Begich’s ad blamed  Sullivan, the former state attorney general, for Active’s light prison sentence.

The Democrat’s ad spurred a response from Sullivan who pointed out that he was not attorney general when Active committed either the 2007 or 2009 crimes. Sullivan, a former Bush administration official, was in the Marines when Active committed the 2009 offenses and only became attorney general in June 2009. (RELATED: Dan Sullivan Accused Mark Begich Of Lying In Ad)

Active’s 2007 was not factored into his charges for the 2009 crimes because of a failure of the Alaska Department of Public Safety’s criminal database.

Rather than the eight-year sentence, Active was given only four years plus time served along with four years probation. He was released from prison for the 2009 crimes in 2011 and was arrested and released several times afterwards for probation violation.

The Begich campaign has also produced a plea agreement which Active agreed to bearing Sullivan’s signature. Officials currently in the state attorney general’s office have said that Sullivan should not be blamed for Active’s sentence or for the plea deal, which is the responsibility of the prosecutors under Sullivan.

Seeing the murder case and sexual assault brought back into the limelight weighed on the family for two reasons, according to Collins. First, the publicity might hamper the case against Active. Second, it forced the family to relive the gruesome crimes.

Because of that, Collins asked the Begich campaign to pull its initial ad and requested that the Sullivan campaign do the same with its rebuttal.

While the Sullivan campaign accommodated the request in full, Begich’s campaign did not go far enough, merely modifying its ad.

The half-measure set off Collins.

“I have just read [Begich campaign communications director] Max’s [Croes] press release from 8:30 pm last night and find that the campaign is not reducing the publicity of my clients’ ongoing grief and tragedy but inciting it, and simply attempting to play politics at their expense,” reads Collins’ letter to Begich.

“I am highly offended that your campaign manager will tell me one thing and your campaign does another when my client’s wishes that you completely and unconditionally remove all reference to the case, including any sentencing issues, were directly known to your office,” the attorney continued.

On Monday, Croes provided TheDC with the statement it issued Sunday which indicated that the campaign would be modifying its ads.

But however the Begich camp responded, Collins made clear that it was not enough.

“In case you have any doubt about the indirect information I am talking about, I specifically mean for you to remove from public view any discussion, reference, footnote, timeline, quote, anecdote, quip [of the case],” wrote Collins.

Croes did not immediately respond to TheDC’s follow-up asking whether the campaign intended to respond to Collins’ new request.

“You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible. Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them,” Collins wrote.

While Collins said that the family was not happy with Sullivan mentioning Active in his rebuttal ad, he noted that the challenger quickly accommodated the family’s request to remove it.

“Dan Sullivan’s campaign may have been perceived as insensitive by my clients when he talked about the ad directly in his response to your ad, but he did not cross the line directly into material facts of the case,” Collins wrote, adding that the Sullivan ad “also did not cause the extensive anguish that your campaign did.”

“Yet, more importantly, the Sullivan campaign immediately recognized that the right thing to do was take it down.”

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