Columns 2016

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Senator Dan Sullivan is right

I have to assume most readers will not be shocked to find out that Senator Dan Sullivan and I agree on very little. Political viewpoints don’t get much farther apart than our respective philosophies. But there are two things on which we completely agree. One is that the Marine Corps rocks. The others is that no government should be negotiating away justice for juvenile victims of sexual assault.

The stench that arose from the investigation of Senator Ted Stevens is hard to ignore. The worse of that stench is the possibility (probability?) that the government’s chief witness against Stevens, Bill Allen, was promised he would not be prosecuted for (allegedly) causing underage girls to cross state lines for paid sex with him.  Even if Ted Stevens had been guilty of everything the government charged him with – and we now know that is highly unlikely given prosecutorial misconduct throughout the proceedings – his actions would still not rise anywhere near the level of Allen’s actions in (allegedly) using young girls to satisfy his lust.

Bill Allen was a very powerful man in Alaska for a very long time. Powerful people tend to think that the rules don’t apply to them. From Elvis Presley’s Priscilla to Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin, the rich and famous seem to believe they are above the law and exempt from responsibility for their actions. Bill Allen was one of those who bought into this delusion. He ruled the Alaska legislature, he ruled VECO, and he ruled Alaska through the outsized role his company played in the economy. Ultimately, he believed he was above the law. The people we pay to enforce the law seemingly confirmed him in this belief.

That people like this exist is disgusting. That people like this can use their money and influence to buy themselves safety from their actions is even more disgusting. That our government would in any way aid and abet someone like this is beyond disgusting and rolls over into the category of obscene. The most vulnerable in our society, the young and lost, already have no one to protect or guide them. They are the teens on the street that, if they are lucky, find Covenant House. The unlucky find a Bill Allen. And the only agency they can turn to at that point for protection is the same agency that is protecting their abuser.

What freaks me out even more than the government’s attempt to protect this (alleged) pedophile is the silence that has emanated from Alaskans about what Allen (allegedly) got away with. I know men sentenced to more than a decade in prison for doing much less. So why are Alaskans so complacent about this potential travesty of justice? Is this why our sexual assault and sexual abuse rates are so high? Are we not angry because we don’t care or because we have become so inured to the headlines that it doesn’t really register?

President Obama signed the amendment that Senator Sullivan attached to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act into law and its effect on the type of actions that (allegedly) allowed Bill Allen to get away with being a pedophile will be profound. Local agencies will no longer have their hands tied by the federal government in these cases. Maybe Bill Allen will never be brought to justice for his (alleged) actions against young girls but at least the next person to try it will know that it won’t be so easy to negotiate away the charges.

In the March 17, 2016 opinion piece in the ADN, Sullivan and co-author Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards state, “Victims need to know that their government is working for them, not against them for political purposes.” It could not be stated more clearly, concisely or truly. Young people on the streets are victims waiting to happen. They have no one to protect them as they have often left horrendous situations in their own homes. We can’t save them from their bad decisions. But we sure as heck can prosecute those adults who encourage them to act on those bad decisions by offering them money, travel and some version of companionship in exchange for illegal sex.

I have to wonder how many female attorneys were in the room when this deal was (allegedly) made with Allen. I’m betting none.