Outlaw former fishermen Roland Maw shook free from the state of Alaska this week, or at least partially so.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez freed the former Board of Fisheries member from a dozen felony charges he was facing for allegedly ripping off the Alaska Permanent Fund. The Kasilof resident still faces five misdemeanor charges of “unsworn falsification” for lying when signing state documents, but Menendez quashed the far more serious felony indictment against Maw.
The action came after the judge decided the state presented improper hearsay evidence to a grand jury in order to secure the indictment.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Kelley, the prosecutor who bungled the case, could not be reached for comment. She has dodged interviews since the charges against Maw, a former member of the Board of Fisheries and a friend of Gov. Bill Walker, were first revealed.
Maw was awaiting legislative confirmation to the Fish Board when the Alaska Dispatch News discovered he appeared to be claiming he was a resident of both Montana and Alaska, an action illegal in both states.
Hours after Alaska State Troopers were asked for assistance in verifying Maw’s claims to residency in “Big Sky Country,” Maw mysteriously, according to news accounts at the time, resigned from the board.
The Dispatch News never did disclose its knowledge of what had happened, but three days after Maw’s resignation reported that the state of Montana had “opened a criminal investigation into Roland Maw, who was appointed by Gov. Bill Walker to the Alaska Board of Fisheries in January but who withdrew his name from consideration last week without explanation.”
(Full disclosure: The author was the reporter involved in catching Maw claiming residency in two states at the same time.)
Maw was eventually charged and convicted in Montana. An Alaska probe of his residency claims began after that conviction. Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend applications clearly state that anyone who applies for a resident hunting and fishing license in another state cannot qualify for the annual payment that has sometimes reached more than $2,000.
The state undertook a lengthy investigation of Maw. It resulted in a 481-page dossier documenting not only the “variety of Montana resident fish and game licenses (Maw obtained) between 2008 and 2014,” but Maw’s extensive out-of-Alaska travels by air and by road.
Maw, according to the state, lied when he said on his PFD application that he hadn’t been gone from Alaska for more than 90 days in the years from 2008 to 2014.
But Maw’s lawyer moved to get the evidence struck down. Some 150 pages of Alaska Airlines ticketing information were neither “public records” nor public reports, argued attorney Nicholas Polasky, who also questioned 64 pages of information from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Because the documents weren’t official, public records, the Juneau attorney said, they amounted to nothing but hearsay, and the state should have told that to the grand jury.
Menendez eventually agreed.
“A plain and simple reading of the law is that the reasons for presenting hearsay evidence shall be stated on the record at the grand jury,” his ruling said, “and not at some later point in time. That did not happen in this case and the near entirety of the evidence heard by the jury did not comply with Alaska law.”
After Polasky filed the motion to quash the Maw indictment, the state twice asked for extra time to respond only to eventually send Menendez a rather terse, four-page document.
It argued “the evidence presented to the grand jury was both admissible and sufficient, and supports the indictment,” and then offered the judge a primer on the rules of evidence for grand juries.
Maw told the Morris News Service he feels unfairly treated by the state. Before Maw got into trouble with the PFD, he had a lucrative contract with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to conduct salmon “test fishing” in Cook Inlet in the summer. His legal problems killed the deal.
He also piled up legal fees fighting the charges, reporter DJ Summers wrote, and suffered damage to his reputation.
“I’m a little cranked,” Maw said. “You’re darned right I am.”
Maw said he’s now hoping the state dismisses the rest of the charges, although it has various options. It could choose to re-indict. The state and the Alaska courts have aggressively pursued PFD cases in the past.
Two of the stars of the reality TV show “Alaska Bush People” were last year sent to jail for lying to collect PFDs. Sixty-three-year-old Billy Brown and son, Joshua, were also ordered to pay back about $9,000 in illegally obtained PFDs and $13,000 in fines. Other family members had already paid back the rest of a total of $20,938 in illegally obtained dividends, according to the Juneau Empire.
The jail sentence came after Juneau Superior Court Judge Phillip Pallenberg rejected a plea deal negotiated by Kelley. Pallenberg said the deal was too lenient.
“I think the average person who looks at that plea agreement is going to see that it’s a plea agreement in which somebody pays back the money, can’t get future PFDs, but nothing else really happens to them,” the Empire quoted Pallenberg saying at the time. “… In a case like this, I think what carries some teeth as a deterrent is jail.”
Kelley then lobbied for the plea deal arguing a trial would be “complicated.” She did not respond to an email asking what she planned to do next with the complicated Maw case.