After more than six years, one of the longest-running cases in the history of the Alaska Court system appears headed toward an end in a plea deal with the outlaw Roland Maw, the political operator who secured a seat he’d always coveted on the state Board of Fisheries only to have it come crashing down around him.
Maw was in the state’s capital city for a confirmation hearing to confirm is 2015 appointment when Alaska State Troopers were asked to find out if it was true he claimed to be a resident of Montana as well as Alaska.
The very next morning, Maw announced he was withdrawing from the confirmation process.
The Anchorage Daily News, fully aware of the reason he was quitting, published a story claiming instead that “Kenai fish wars have claimed another Fish Board nominee….(Gov. Bill)Walker spokesperson Grace Jang said she could only speculate on (Maw’s) reasons and declined to do so.”
Walker was at the time a good friend of then ADN publisher Alice Rogoff, and Jang knew fully well why Maw bailed out. Multiple sources later said that Walker told Maw to pull his resignation knowing that Montana officials were about to charge him with breaking the law in that state and reveal Maw’s claim to dual state residency.
The one-time director of the United Cook Inlet Drifters Association (UCIDA), the most powerful commercial fishing lobby in Southcentral Alaska, Maw would eventually admit to lying about his claims to be a resident of Montana in order to obtain cheaper hunting and fishing licenses and tags.
Long Alaska delay
That happened way back in2015. Maw accepted his guilt and Montana fined him $7,245 for his misbehavior along with revoking his “privileges to hunt, fish and trap in the state of Montana and all states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact for a period of 18 months, according to court documents.
A retired professor from Lethbridge Community College in Alberta, just north of the border between Canada and the U.S. state of Montana; a contractor working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; and one of Cook Inlet’s more successful commercial fishermen, the Montana fine wasn’t much of a problem for the well-off, then 72-year-old.
His lying ways, however, presented much bigger problems in the 49th state where he had been filing to collect dividends from the now $81 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, which annually shares with the state’s citizens some of the income earned off oil wealth investments.
Alaska state law is very clear that it is illegal to collect that benefit while claiming to be the resident of another state, and since it is impossible and illegal to claim residency in two states at the same time, Maw found himself in a bit of pickle.
In January of 2016, Maw was charged with Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) theft.
Montana state records indicate that in wake of those charges being filed in Alaska, Maw went back to court in that state to try to withdraw his plea of “nolo contendere” there. Nolo contendere pleas allow one to accept that they are guilty without admitting they are guilty.
Attorneys say this is the sort of filing someone would make if after entering a nolo plea they learned there was something that might work to their advantage in trying to gain an acquittal at trial. An acquittal in Montana would have helped Maw defend against his case in Alaska by wiping away his admission he was claiming to be the resident of two states at the same time.
A Montana judge denied Maw’s request.
Some thought Walker, a big friend of UCIDA, would eventually jump in to bail Maw out of his self-created mess, but that never happened. And by 2018 Walker was done as governor thanks to the misbehavior of the late Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.
All of this left Maw with an uphill battle in a state that had charged him with six counts each of “unsworn falsification” and theft for first lying on his PFD applications and then banking the PFD checks sent to him, plus five counts of unsworn falsification for lying on hunting and fishing licenses.
The first 12 counts are felonies, the latter five misdemeanors.
Maw pled not guilty to the charges and his Juneau-based lawyer, Nicholas Polasky, mounted a defense based around the idea that Maw himself might have been the victim of a virtual, online imposter filing for dividends in Maw’s name.
“Mr. Maw does not necessarily assert that he is not the person who made the statements or engaged in the conduct that is represented in every single exhibit,” Polasky wrote. “However, Mr. Maw does not agree that he is the person who made the statements or engaged in the conduct in some of the exhibits.”
Losing while winning
Twice Polasky managed to get a sympathetic judge, the son of a commercial fisherman, to quash the indictments against Maw, but Polasky’s legal arguments were a double-edged sword.
They cut Maw temporarily free of the charges but at the same time forced the state to reindict.
The state of Alaska does much of its business online, and it thus couldn’t let Maw walk based on the argument that anyone could be filing whatever online. That might open the door for lawyers for who knows how many other Toms, Dicks and Marys to resort to the Maw defense if they ended up in trouble.
With these legal maneuverings and then the pandemic, Polansky and Maw did, however, manage to delay the trial for six years in a first-class display of how the legal system can be manipulated by people with money. There is no telling what this has cost Maw, but other attorneys put the likely bill in the tens of thousands of dollars at least and probably into the hundred thousand dollar and over category.
Maw was finally set to go to trial before a jury in Juneau last week, but the trial was once again delayed.
Since then, the state court system has posted notice of a plea hearing for next Monday.
What exactly the now 78-year-old Maw plans to plead out to is unclear. A request for comment from the Department of Law brought no response.
Maw could not be reached for comment. Where he is living these days is also uncertain, but his voter registration showed him as an Alaska Republican living in what Kenai Peninsula Borough property records describe as a 945-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath house in Kasilof where he accepted a $52,557.83 Alaska CARES grant for 2020.
The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) grants were meant to aid small businesses hammered by the pandemic. Maw apparently filed for losses to his commercial fishing business.