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Wasilla lawmaker's son 'remorseful' over friend's drug death

Zaz Hollander
Some of Matthew Scott's ashes reside in the living room of his family's home Tuesday, November 26, 2013, in Meadow Lakes.
Erik Hill
Friends put together a framed tribute to Matthew Scott for his family following his death at age 20 in April of 2012.
Erik Hill

WASILLA -- New court documents defending Robin Gattis describe the 20-year-old son of a Wasilla state legislator as a bright but difficult child who eventually turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with a rocky family life.

Gattis never meant for his friend Matthew Scott to die from an overdose of the methylone he supplied, according to a sentencing memorandum defense attorney Scott Dattan filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Gattis, son of state House Rep. Lynn Gattis, will be sentenced Thursday on federal drug charges.

Gattis in August admitted to importing from China a total of 3 kilograms of methylone, a designer drug that mimics the effects of the drug Ecstasy and is sometimes added to bath salts. He also admitted to providing the methylone on which Scott overdosed in April 2012.

Scott was the first Alaskan to die from the drug. The federal case appears to be the first involving a methylone death, prosecutors say.

Dattan wants Judge Ralph Beistline to sentence his client to 10 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors are asking for twice that much -- the 20-year maximum allowed under the August agreement in which Gattis pleaded guilty to single count of drug conspiracy.

Gattis grew up a "fat and nerdy kid" described by his mother as a brilliant but headstrong child, according to Dattan's memo. Robin looked up to his big brother, Ryan, five years older. Both earned money by working on the family's hay farm on Point MacKenzie. Their father, Richard Gattis, is a FedEx pilot.

His family tried, without success, to medicate Gattis for a diagnosed oppositional defiance disorder, the court document states. Rep. Gattis said they visited the emergency room often to "address the bruises, bumps, and strains of Robin's challenging journey through life."

Gattis struggled academically after his parents made him transfer to the Colony schools to be closer to his brother, the memo states, but excelled when home-schooled.

Gattis was placed at a North Star Behavioral Health Care facility when he threatened to kill himself at 16, during which time a friend of his committed suicide, according to the document. He left home after that.

In a mid-November forensic psychological evaluation, Gattis described "a long history of feeling misunderstood," the memo states. "'I used drugs because my life was screwed up. I was depressed with family problems. ... I was supposed to do things to look good, even if that was not really me. My limitations were always pointed out. My mom tried to always change me or hide what might appear to be a problem for anyone looking in.'"

An earlier court document notes that Gattis started drinking alcohol at 17, smoking pot daily a year later and described using other drugs including cocaine, mushrooms, opiates, Ecstasy and methylone until he was arrested in July 2012.

His federal arrest came several months after Gattis supplied Scott with the methylone for a three-day binge, prosecutors say. As Scott was overdosing, Gattis left him to die, without summoning medical help, to protect his own criminal activity, according to the federal sentencing memo also filed last week.

But Dattan's filing says Gattis is "remorseful over his best friend's death."

Neither Gattis nor Scott knew how dangerous methylone could be, the memo says. "Robin did not mean for his friend to die, and when he did, Robin was overcome with panic and the overwhelming realization, all at once, that every small escalation toward this end -- trying drugs, buying drugs, importing drugs, and sharing drugs, had led to this point."

Scott's parents, Debbie Hurd and Dan Scott, bristle at the description of their son as Gattis' best friend. The two had known each other only for about eight months after Gattis rented a house in the family's Meadow Lakes neighborhood, Hurd said during an interview last week.

Her son got methylone for free in exchange for helping Gattis, she said.

"That drives us crazy," Hurd said of the "best friend" description. "Don't call our son your friend. What he was, he was the patsy at the moment."

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.