Murkowski asks for review of man's arrest in Alaska preserve

YUKON RIVER: Man, 70, 'roughed up,' faces jail after safety stop.

September 22, 2010 

FAIRBANKS -- U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has asked for a "full review" of the arrest of a 70-year-old Alaska man whose lawyer claims National Park Service rangers went a little overboard during a boat safety stop.

In a letter to National Park Service director Jonathon Jarvis, Murkowski asked for an explanation about why Jim Wilde was stopped and arrested following what park service officials said began as a routine boat safety inspection.

His attorney, Bill Satterberg, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that "badge-heavy park rangers" flagged down Wilde for a boat safety inspection on the Yukon River, then "roughed him up" and pointed a shotgun at him.

Satterberg said Wilde told the two rangers it was unsafe to board his boat in the middle of the river and said he would go ashore with his passengers -- his wife, Hannelore, 73, and their friend, Fred Shank -- and meet them.

"Nobody boards each other on the Yukon River," Satterberg said.

The trio had been boating up the Yukon River near Woodchopper Creek, downriver from Eagle, while hunting Thursday, when the two rangers approached.

Satterberg said the park rangers followed Wilde as he motored to shore, with one pointing a shotgun at him.

After reaching shore, Wilde was anchoring his boat when "the next thing you know he was knocked to the ground," Satterberg said. "They roughed him up a little bit by rolling him around in the mud."

Wilde has pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanors: interfering with agency function, violating a lawful order, disorderly conduct and operating an unregistered boat. Each charge is punishable by six months in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.

Satterberg described Wilde as "a classic, old, crusty Alaskan" who will have his day in court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Cooper told the Daily News-Miner he could not elaborate on any details of the case because he was "strictly limited to the public record."

According to the charges Cooper filed against Wilde in federal court in Fairbanks, Wilde threatened, resisted, intimidated and intentionally interfered with a park ranger during an official duty; fled when he was ordered to halt; and recklessly created "a risk of public nuisance and violence by engaging in threatening and violent behavior in the form of maneuvering his boat toward the path of a law enforcement vessel, and in other ways."

Murkowski issued a news release Tuesday calling the circumstances of the arrest "questionable" and the behavior of the arresting officers as "provocative."

"The initial reports I've received indicate that Park Service personnel overreacted in this case," said Murkowski, who is involved in a campaign to keep her seat in the Nov. 2 election. "This incident calls for a full review of exactly what happened."

National Park Service spokesman John Quinley declined to discuss any details about the incident.

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