City won't prosecute in Miller forum scuffle at city school

PROSECUTOR: Neither Hopfinger nor Miller's private guards cited.

October 19, 2010 

Anchorage Municipal Prosecutor Albert Patterson said Tuesday that no charges will be filed in the incident Sunday in which an online journalist was placed under arrest for trespass and assault by private security guards working for U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller.

Patterson said that likewise no charges will be filed against the guards, who could have been charged with assault in their arrest of the journalist, Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger.

Hopfinger was placed under a private person's arrest by guards from a Spenard company called Drop Zone after he attempted to interview Miller and a scuffle ensued.

The incident occurred after a 45-minute town hall meeting Miller held at Central Middle School.

Miller said Hopfinger blocked his access to a school exit, and he and an aide had to turn back the other way. Hopfinger "physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate," Miller's campaign said.

Hopfinger said he was surrounded by hostile people and shoved someone to get some space. Hopfinger said he was being aggressive but not improperly so.

William Fulton, Drop Zone owner and Miller's chief guard at the event, said he then arrested Hopfinger for trespassing and assault. He said he had the right to arrest him for trespass because the campaign had rented the space from the school district and had the right to exclude anyone, though the district said it rented the cafeteria, stage and parking lot, not the hall where the arrest took place.

A police office eventually showed up, took statements and released Hopfinger.

Prosecutor Patterson issued a one-sentence statement today: "After careful review by the Municipal Prosecutors office of witness statements, police reports, and other materials relating to this incident, it has been determined that no criminal charges will be filed against any party."

Patterson said neither he nor the police asked to speak to Miller about the incident, and Miller didn't volunteer to speak to them.

Hopfinger said Tuesday that Patterson's decision "was obviously the right thing to do."

Hopfinger said he hasn't yet decided whether to pursue civil charges against the men who held him captive in the school hallway for more than a half hour, or the Miller campaign which hired them.

"I think quite honestly my rights were violated," he said. "I didn't do anything wrong -- they started all this pushing business."

An assertion by Miller in a national network interview that Hopfinger had dogged him into the men's room at the school is false, he said. Hopfinger said he had just needed to go to the bathroom and didn't attempt to interview Miller there -- he only asked him whether he would appear at a Senate debate sponsored by the Dispatch Monday night, Hopfinger said. Miller told him he had another engagement and wouldn't show, he said. The conversation was courteous, Hopfinger said.

Miller said Tuesday he wouldn't comment on Patterson's decision.

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