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Thread: Alaska trooper & union say politics delayed Sherry Johnston drug case

  1. #1
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Default Alaska trooper & union say politics delayed Sherry Johnston drug case

    (Sherry Johnston is Bristol Palin's future mother in law.)

    Trooper, union say politics delayed Johnston drug case

    DENIAL: Accusations are incorrect, says public safety chief and troopers director.

    By SEAN COCKERHAM
    scockerham@adn.com
    Published: January 4th, 2009 01:46 AM
    Last Modified: January 4th, 2009 02:46 AM

    A Mat-Su drug investigator and the union representing Alaska State Troopers are alleging political meddling in the Sherry Johnston drug case, including a delay in serving the search warrant because of the November election.

    Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, who became nationally known in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their daughter, Bristol, was pregnant and he was the father. Palin was running for vice president while Sherry Johnston was under investigation.

    Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters and troopers director Col. Audie Holloway vigorously dispute that there was anything irregular in how this case was handled.

    "We worked very hard to make sure we conducted it just as fairly and as normally as any other investigation," Holloway said.

    That's not what Kyle Young, a troopers drug investigator who was involved in the case, wrote in an e-mail last week to all members of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents troopers and other law enforcement officers around the state.

    Young wrote that after it became clear who Johnston is, "this case became anything but normal."

    "It was not allowed to progress in a normal fashion, the search warrant service WAS delayed because of the pending election and the Mat Su Drug Unit and the case officer were not the ones calling the shots," Young wrote.

    Sherry Johnston was arrested Dec. 18 on charges of selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin, the same day the warrant was served.

    Young, speaking through union officials, declined to comment for this story. But John Cyr, executive director of the union, said it's clear to him that the investigation was handled differently because of who Johnston is.

    "This really does smack of political favoritism. And if that be the case, it's another example of the Palin administration's direct influence on the public safety unit," Cyr said.

    Tension between the governor and the public safety employees union is not new. The union and Palin battled over the governor's July removal of Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner, and the allegations she pressured public safety officials to fire a trooper who was her ex-brother-in-law. Palin appointed Masters as the public safety commissioner in September.

    Cyr said the union is confident Young's version of what happened is true. That's because the union verified it in discussions "with the entire drug unit, with all of our members," he said.

    He said the people the union president spoke with included the case officer for the Johnston investigation, Donna Anthony. She works on the Mat-Su drug unit but is a member of the Palmer police force, which is not part of the union.

    Anthony did not return a call seeking comment.

    Public safety commissioner Masters said Young made assumptions in his e-mail and didn't know what was going on behind the scenes to make sure the investigation was normal. Troopers Director Holloway said the higher ups were indeed scrutinizing everything in the Johnston investigation -- but only to ensure that it was conducted just like any other similar case would be.

    "We did everything we possibly could to ensure that the investigation progressed in a normal fashion as other investigations similar to this would proceed," Masters said.

    The timing of the investigation was based on "when we could get Johnston to sell to us. We were entirely at her schedule," Holloway said.

    Holloway and Masters denied Young's statement that troopers delayed serving the search warrant because of the Nov. 4 election. Masters said the warrant was obtained Dec. 2 and served on Dec. 18 when it became clear a final drug buy the officers hoped for was falling through.

    Johnston was at her Wasilla home when it was searched, and was arrested the same day. She's out on bail and is scheduled to appear in court this week.

    Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, said Saturday he had nothing to add to what Masters said.

    Johnston's son and the governor's daughter became parents on Dec. 27 with the birth of their son, Tripp. Levi Johnston is working as an electrical apprentice on the North Slope, according to a statement issued last week by the governor's office.

    Masters said neither Palin nor anyone else in the governor's office knew of the investigation until the search warrant was served. At that point, Masters said, he called Palin chief of staff Mike Nizich and gave him a heads-up to be aware that a media frenzy was coming.

    Young's e-mail last week to union members was in response to a written statement issued to news media by Masters last Monday. In the statement, Masters declared the case officer, Anthony, had filed an inaccurate affidavit as part of the charging documents.

    The investigation, Masters wrote, was handled normally and that the affidavit wrongly said Johnston had been under Secret Service protection.

    He was referring to a line in the affidavit saying "Sherry Johnston is no longer under the protection or surveillance of the Secret Service." Masters wrote he would notify the court about the inaccuracy.

    Investigator Young said the affidavit was accurate and that "apparent political pressure" motivated Masters to contact the court and "smear" the case officer.

    "It is true that Sherry was not directly under Secret Service protection, but it is true that when Levi was at the house, that he and other household members were under their protection," Young wrote in his e-mail to union members.

    "Text messages from Johnston to the informant indicated that she was afraid to meet and conduct one illegal transaction, because of Secret Service presence at her home," Young wrote.

    In an interview Friday, Masters said neither Levi nor Sherry Johnston were under Secret Service protection -- just the governor and her immediate family, including Bristol. A spokesman for the Secret Service said the same thing to the Daily News earlier.

    Masters said the governor's office didn't ask him to send out the written statement, and he was just trying to clear up misunderstandings in the media. Troopers director Holloway said he advised Masters against issuing the statement because he didn't think it was necessary and would just make an issue out of it.

    Public safety union director Cyr said there's no formal role for the union to take at this point regarding what Young wrote, other than standing behind him.

    "There is no reason for the Mat Su drug unit to lie or to falsify the record in this regard. And there is reason, political reason, for the commissioner and other members of the command staff, if you will, to distort what actually happened," he said.

    Trooper, union say politics delayed Johnston drug case: Top Stories | adn.com

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Default

    Palin abused her power....again. Say it ain't so, Joe.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Default Troopers union backs off on allegations

    Troopers union backs off on allegations


    By TOM KIZZIA
    tkizzia@adn.com


    (01/05/09 20:31:34)
    The union representing state troopers has backed off allegations that a drug investigation of Sherry Johnston was slowed down last fall to shield the national candidacy of Gov. Sarah Palin.

    An inquiry Monday by officials for the Public Safety Employees Association concluded that investigators did not delay a search warrant for political reasons, said union president Rob Cox. Charges of political meddling erupted last week because of misunderstandings between investigators working on the case and senior state public safety officials, Cox said.


    The drug-selling case against Johnston -- whose son, Levi, is the father of Palin's new grandson, Tripp -- did draw unusual scrutiny from top public safety officials, Cox said. He said union and state officials hope to meet Tuesday to sort out any misunderstandings and determine whether political considerations had any effect at all.


    "At this point, it really is a non-issue," Cox said.


    Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters issued a statement late Monday, repeating his assertion that the governor's office was never clued in to the drug investigation and that trooper leaders were only trying to assure that the case was handled like any other.


    "Events nationally, and their affects (sic) locally, certainly may have influenced Ms. Johnston's behaviors and ultimately the timeline of the case," Masters said. "However, the accusations that political motives were behind the decision on how to manage this case are baseless."


    WRONG ABOUT THE WARRANT
    A national flare-up of news coverage on the political meddling charge was triggered by the leak last week of an internal union e-mail written by a state trooper involved in the Johnston case. Trooper Kyle Young asserted that service of the search warrant against Johnston was delayed for political reasons, saying that after it was clear who the target was "this case became anything but normal."

    Union officials backed up Young at first, saying they had verified his allegations with the rest of the Mat-Su drug unit.


    But on Monday, Cox said Young had played a secondary role in the case and turned out to be wrong about the warrant. Cox said the leading case officer, Donna Anthony, told him the search warrant against Johnston would not have been ready to serve before the election, regardless of the political climate.


    Johnston was arrested Dec. 18, the day the warrant was served. At her arraignment in state court Monday she pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of possessing and selling OxyContin.


    Even before last week, relations between the public safety union and the governor's office were raw. The two sides had sparred in recent months over removal of Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner, and allegations Palin pressured officials to fire a trooper who was her ex-brother-in-law.


    Union officials stressed Monday that they had not gone out of their way to pick a fight over the Johnston case. Executive director John Cyr said Young never intended his e-mail to become political fodder.


    "He was shocked when it leaked to the press," Cyr said, "and now I'm cleaning up the mess."


    Young sent the e-mail to all the union members in the state.


    OVERREACTIONS
    The whole fracas started, Cox said, when Masters -- appointed by Palin in September -- issued a press release last week sternly correcting sworn trooper testimony regarding Secret Service protection in the Johnston case.
    Masters said investigators wrongly asserted that Johnston was under federal protection during the campaign. Young responded -- and the union agreed -- that Masters was overreacting: Secret Service protection had indeed affected Levi's mother's behavior, even if she wasn't afforded direct protection. Young said the troopers on the case appeared to be getting smeared because of political pressure.

    "It made the drug unit look pretty bad, and I don't think that was his intention," Cox said of Masters' original press release.


    That's how there were misunderstandings on both sides, Cox said: Masters with his press release, and Young in his response to the press release. A meeting Tuesday should help sort all this out, he said.


    "Hopefully we're willing to take egg on our faces together rather than cover up, as so often happens in political cases," Cox said.


    Masters said in his statement Monday the administration hopes to work with the union to resolve such disputes. He ended on a frosty note: "We certainly would have been open to communications with the union regarding its perceptions of this case if it had come forward with its concerns."


    Troopers union backs off on allegations: Alaska News | adn.com

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