The winner of the state's first half-million-dollar lottery was seriously beaten on a downtown street Tuesday afternoon by a man wielding a tire iron or metal pipe, according to Anchorage police.
A California man was arrested later Tuesday evening on a felony assault charge in connection with the attack, which occurred near the 5th Avenue Mall at about 3:30 p.m. and sent Alec Ahsoak, 53, to a local hospital with serious head injuries.
Just before Ahsoak was assaulted, the attacker, accompanied by two women, approached him to ask if he was the person who won the $500,000 jackpot, according to police.
Whether the attack was motivated by Ahsoak's winning the lottery, which was held to benefit an advocacy group for sexual-abuse victims, or by the widely distributed reports that Ahsoak is a three-time convicted sex-offender, was unclear.
"I've never known of anybody to beat somebody up because of their winning a lottery," police Lt. Dave Parker said. "There was no apparent attempt at robbery. He was struck eight to 10 times, and then he threw his Pepsi at the assailant and he ran for Phyllis' Cafe and the assailant ran off."
By Tuesday evening, Ahsoak had been discharged from the hospital with cuts on the back of his head that had been stapled closed and another on his temple that had received stitches, Parker said.
Los Angeles resident Brandon J. Hughes, 20, was arrested on charges of second-degree assault and tampering with evidence for allegedly taking the weapon with him while fleeing the scene. He was booked at the Anchorage jail on those charges with bail set at $90,000.
Hughes was also wanted in California on a no-bail felony weapons warrant issued last Wednesday, Parker said.
"Which means he didn't have very much time to get up here and create mischief here," he said.
Parker said Hughes did "make admissions" regarding the attack on Ahsoak, but police did not release what the motivation might have been. Police had identified one of the two women and were treating her as a witness, Parker said.
Ahsoak told officers he had been stopped by his attacker as he entered the 5th Avenue Mall. When the stranger asked if he was the lottery winner, Ahsoak said he was and went into the mall.
When he walked out minutes later carrying a Pepsi, the man approached him, saying nothing more, and began hitting him on the head with the weapon, police said.
"Oh my God, I was so afraid something was going to happen to him," said Nancy Haag, executive director of Standing Together Against Rape, the nonprofit that benefited from the lottery. "I'm just very sorry to hear that this has happened. ... Nobody deserves to be a victim of any kind of violence, and that's our stand."
The lottery, billed as the first of its kind, was conducted by Lucky Times Pull Tabs under an Alaska law that allows games of chance that benefit a charity. The charity must get at least 10 percent of what's left after the prize is paid out, and organizers have estimated the nonprofit STAR stands to get between $2,000 and $20,000.
On Saturday, Ahsoak claimed about $350,000 in prize money after taxes were taken out and pledged to give $100,000 of it to STAR, the owner of Lucky Times, Abe Spicola, has said. Spicola did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Reports that Ahsoak is a convicted sex offender were publicized soon after he came forward, first by KTUU Channel 2 News and then other outlets, including the Daily News. By Monday, Ahsoak's victims were telling reporters they thought Ahsoak should not benefit from the lottery that was helping a group advocating for victims of sexual assault.
Asked whether the media should have publicized that Ahsoak was a convicted sex offender, Haag said, "I think it put him, obviously, at greater risk because there are people who like to take justice into their own hands."
Ahsoak was convicted in 1993 of molesting two girls under the age of 13 and sentenced to four years in prison, according to court records.
Police arrested him again in March 2000 for molesting a different young girl he was baby-sitting. He was sentenced to six years in prison on a single count of sexual abuse of a minor in a plea deal that took another sex-abuse charge and a charge of failing to register as a sex offender off the table.
Ahsoak has finished his time in prison and is now on probation, but he is registered as a sex offender on a state-run public database that includes information on individual cases and pictures of offenders. He told KTUU on Saturday that he's worked hard to turn his life around and has been in treatment for the past year.
A message left on the cell phone of Ahsoak's attorney was not returned Tuesday.
Some of Ahsoak's victims and their parents have expressed an interest in suing him since he won the lottery, saying the money should go to his victims instead of benefiting a convicted sex offender.
One victim, who was molested in the early 1990s while Ahsoak, a family friend, was staying at her home, said Tuesday she thinks Ahsoak should not have gotten the money. But it was out of her hands and she doesn't think she'll sue, said the woman, who is not being identified because she is the victim of sexual abuse.
"I'm in shock that happened. That's terrible," she said upon hearing of the attack. "I don't wish that on anybody. The only thing I wished for him is that he would get better. ... I just think it's crazy the way that everything happened."
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.