Our view: A matter of justice

Murkowski right to press feds about Allen case

December 13, 2010 

With the certification of her re-election in the courts' hands, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has returned to some unfinished business. She wants a better answer from the Department of Justice about why prosecutors in the department didn't pursue what both federal prosecutors and Anchorage police investigators said was a strong case against Bill Allen for sexual exploitation of teens.

Allen, the former chief executive of Veco and former powerful political player, is in prison for three years after his conviction on federal corruption charges. He pleaded guilty in an agreement with federal prosecutors that had him testifying at trials of two state legislators and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

However, the Justice Department refused to press its case under the federal Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of persons across state lines for sex, with tough penalties when that person is a minor.

Investigators alleged that Allen brought girls as young as 15. Federal law grants the protection of minor status to anyone under 18.

The silence of the Justice Department on the matter leads naturally to the suspicion that the sex-abuse case was dropped as part of a plea deal to gain Allen's cooperation in the corruption case.

We don't know if that's true. We do know that the protection of Alaska's children is more important than a bribery case. We do know that young women came forward in this case only to be told, in effect, that justice they sought wouldn't be forthcoming. We do know this sends exactly the wrong message about the value we place on the safety of our children and justice for victims -- particularly those most vulnerable, including Native girls from Alaska's villages.

We also know that in Alaska, where Gov. Sean Parnell has pledged to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence, we cannot let such allegations pass. The state decided to review the case after the feds dropped it. That's ongoing.

Sen. Murkowski said she won't accept the polite, brush-off reply from the Justice Department that assured her the department appreciates her concern. She's more than concerned. She's angry. So are many Alaskans. Domestic violence and sexual abuse inflict continuing misery here at well above national rates. We will not meekly accept that Justice refuses to prosecute what some of its own people argue is a strong case. And we will not stand to be told that the reasons are none of our business.

Sen. Murkowski is making clear that this is our business, because the alleged victims in this and many other cases are our children. We need answers. If that takes a subpoena, a Senate hearing and the sworn testimony of the U.S. attorney general, so be it.

BOTTOM LINE: Alaskans still need answers in Allen case.

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