Our View: Answers in Active case just not good enough

June 8, 2013 

Why was he out of jail?

AG's answers raise more questions in Active case and beyond

Jerry Andrew Active, charged with the murder of an elderly Anchorage couple and the sexual assault of a young girl and an old woman, should not have been free to kill on May 25.

In fact, according the account by Attorney General Michael Geraghty on Thursday, Active's sentence in a 2009 sexual assault case in Togiak should have resulted in a sentence of eight to 15 years, not the four years with four suspended that he received. That's because Active had a previous felony conviction -- a fact that apparently everyone involved missed, at least in part because it wasn't in the state's database.

The state is investigating that glaring mistake, which allowed prosecutors to make and a judge to accept what's called a soft plea deal with Active in the 2009 case.

Such gaps are chilling because they open doors not to just to garden variety offenders but to monsters.

Maybe even more infuriating to Alaskans is that Active didn't even serve the soft-plea time he was given. He was released in October 2011, re-arrested and jailed again for probation violations and sentenced to served the rest of his 2009 time.

But he didn't do that either. He was released in November 2012, and on the same day of his release was arrested and charged with running from a police officer, whom he dragged on the ground as she was trying to restrain him.

The sentence for assault, resisting arrest and providing false information? Ninety days with 80 suspended. The court did tack on 120 days for probation violation.

Apart from his previous miserable record, he dragged a police officer on the ground. When do the courts conclude that this is an individual with no respect for the law and a genuine danger to the people around him? You have a repeat offender and a sex offender to boot and the court is handing out wrist slaps.

Time off for good behavior? When does the bad behavior outside preclude any credit inside? And not just for Active but for any other chronic offender?

Geraghty explained that Active's violations weren't that serious, so judges didn't sentence him to serving suspended time. He said Active probably wouldn't have walked so easily had he committed another sexual assault of a minor, for example.

So we don't get serious with serial flouting of the law until someone is seriously hurt? A series of relatively minor violations should tell the courts something about the individual with whom they keep making deals.

Most of us understand the principle of the punishment fitting the crime. For all the presumptive sentencing in U.S. courts, most of us would grant judges some leeway to consider circumstances and show mercy where warranted. And in the real world our prosecutors have to make choices, and sometimes the justice they pursue isn't perfect.

No doubt Jerry Andrew Active has his story. But he abused all the good will the system granted him even before the horror of May 25 for which he's been charged. No one could have foreseen what he's accused of doing that day, but someone should have recognized what he'd already done, and made him pay his debt to society in full rather than forgiving so much of it.

Alaskans swallow hard and follow the law -- Jerry Andrew Active is innocent until proven guilty. But who denies that had he been behind bars, a respected elderly Cambodian couple would still be alive, a little girl and an old woman unviolated, their family whole.

BOTTOM LINE: Answers in Active case just aren't good enough.

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