Prosecutor didn't know Johnston left for TV appearances

FAMILY: Lawyer said Levi's mom needed to be with kids outside.

April 24, 2009 

If the Palmer District Attorney knew Sherry Johnston was leaving Alaska to appear on "The Tyra Banks Show" and "Larry King Live," he would not have signed off on the trips.

Prosecutor Roman Kalytiak said he thought Johnston needed to attend to something important that justified the unusual travel permission given to someone on bail facing felony drug charges.

"The way they phrased their (legal) motion, it sounded like it was some type of necessary family business," Kalytiak said in a phone interview Friday.

They "didn't say she was going out of state to appear on various TV shows."

Johnston, 42, appeared on the programs alongside her daughter, Mercede, 17, and son, Levi, the 18-year-old father of Gov. Sarah Palin's grandson. The trio talked about the rift between their family and the Palins.

Levi Johnston is the ex-boyfriend of the governor's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol. The couple's out-of-wedlock pregnancy was announced while Palin was running for vice president. The two broke up shortly after the December birth of their son, Tripp.

Kalytiak said that people accused of serious crimes who are not in jail awaiting trial are sometimes allowed to travel for unusual circumstances like funerals, medical treatment or other family emergencies.

But of Johnston's trips, he said, "It appears like these appearances are something she's doing as a choice and they certainly aren't necessary to her family or her case."

Johnston's lawyer, Anchorage defense attorney Rex Butler, would say very little when reached on Friday. He did say, though, that Johnston is back in Alaska after her Wednesday appearance on the King show.

In Palmer Superior Court paperwork asking for permission to leave the state, Butler wrote that Sherry Johnston's "children have personal business to conduct outside the State of Alaska, and they need their mother's presence and participation."

Further, he wrote, "it is important my client be allowed to accompany her children on this trip."

Prosecutors did not object. They asked that Johnston provide a copy of her itinerary and sign a waiver of extradition.

"We were relying on the representation of Mr. Butler, who's an officer of the court, that her children had some matters out of state that required a parent to be there," Kalytiak said. "We relied on his representation when we formulated a response."

Butler requested that Johnston be able to travel from March 29 to April 3. The Johnston family appeared on the April 3 Tyra Banks show. They also appeared on the April 22 "Larry King Live" show, although there doesn't appear to be any paperwork in court files for travel after April 3.

On the King show, Sherry Johnston said she looked forward to telling her side of the story about the drug charges pending against her. "There's a lot of misconception out there," she told King.

King asked her point-blank if she was innocent.

"If anyone would like to get more information, they can talk to my lawyer, Rex Butler," she replied.

In December, Johnston was charged with dealing the prescription painkiller OxyContin, a popular but highly addictive recreational drug. Her trial is scheduled to begin May 18.

Kalytiak said Johnston should be thinking about the trial and working on her defense instead of traveling.


Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.

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