Keyes returns to court 2 days after apparent escape attempt

Casey Grove

Wearing a new red jumpsuit and now labeled a dangerous prisoner after an apparent escape attempt, Israel Keyes, the man charged with abducting and killing 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, sat calmly through a federal court hearing Friday.

Three U.S. marshals walked Keyes in and chained his handcuffs and leg shackles to the floor -- added precautions after his vault into the gallery of a different courtroom Wednesday.

On Friday, Keyes stared into the gallery as Koenig's parents entered the courtroom separately, each with their own supporters, while three marshals stood around him.

The Wednesday hearing had been set to discuss a trial date and whether the case should be officially deemed "complex" because of the nature of the crime and the possible sentence of death. It was disrupted when Keyes, 34, somehow slipped out of or broke his leg shackles and jumped over a courtroom railing. Audio of the cut-short hearing includes a woman yelling, "Kill him!" as U.S. marshals shocked Keyes into submission. That proceeding lasted 11 minutes, according to court records.

Authorities say Keyes forced Koenig, who'd been a barista for a little more than a month, out of a Midtown coffee hut where she worked the night of Feb. 1. Keyes stole a bank card, killed Koenig a short time later and went on to withdraw cash using the card at ATMs in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, according to charging documents.

On Friday, Judge Timothy Burgess picked up where matters had left off two days earlier. The judge first warned Keyes and spectators in the court against any further outbursts.

"It's important for everyone to understand what happened cannot happen and will not be tolerated," Burgess said.

The judge warned Keyes he might end up with more shackles or a gag or be placed in a jail cell for future court proceedings. Burgess asked if Keyes understood.

"Yes, your honor."

Burgess said there had been "unfortunate reactions" and statements made in the courtroom. The comments were just as inappropriate as Keyes' behavior, the judge said.

Then the judge, federal prosecutors and Keyes' attorney got down to the business of setting a trial date, settling on March 11, 2013.

First, though, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo told the judge that the victim's parents and the community, as well as Keyes, deserved a speedy trial. He also suggested asking Keyes what he wanted.

"If he does request a speedy trial, we can certainly accommodate that," Russo said. "From what we understand, he wants this to move along quickly."

With some apprehension from Keyes' attorney, Richard Curtner, the judge asked Keyes if he was concerned about his right to a speedy trial. Burgess asked the accused killer if he'd been following the discussion.

"Yes, your honor."

It was a complicated case, Burgess said, not only with the possible sentence but also evidence discovery issues.

"Yes, your honor," Keyes said. "The only concerns I have, have to do with the discovery, which I haven't been able to review myself."

Keyes said he was trusting his attorneys to fully explain everything.

"If 10 months (for a trial date) is realistic, that's fine with me. If it's realistic to set it sooner than 10 months, that's also fine with me," Keyes said.

Burgess then set a rough timeline, subject to change, for hearings leading up to the trial. The court set a deadline that prosecutors must notify the court within 150 days before trial if they intend to seek the death penalty. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said after the hearing that prosecutors plan to make a decision on the death penalty sooner.

At the end of the hearing, Keyes' bindings were released from the floor and he was led out of the courtroom.

Outside the courtroom, David Long, supervisory deputy for the Marshals Service, explained the added restraints for Keyes. Long would not say exactly how many more marshals were in court Friday.

Long said Judge Burgess had earlier ordered the hearing to be held in a different courtroom, possibly to put Keyes farther from the gallery and public exits. The red jumpsuit Keyes wore signifies that corrections officers at the Anchorage Jail have decided Keyes is a dangerous prisoner, Long said. "He graduated himself up to the red category."

Long said he had no idea what set Keyes off on Wednesday.

Anchorage Daily News