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Alaska dairyman's sentencing delayed by judge to understand 'full extent' of crimes

Craig Medred
Stephen Nowers photo

Anyone confused by the failure of Alaska's fabled Matanuska Maid dairy and the craziness that followed as the 49th state tried to prop up the flagging Southcentral dairy business shouldn't feel alone.

In the latest weird twist in the dairy fiasco, a federal judge on Monday delayed sentencing of Kyle Beus, a former owner of the Mat-Maid spin-off Matanuska Creamery, saying it was difficult to figure out the crimes committed by the dairyman, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersmen reported.

Beus this fall pleaded guilty to making false statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to obtain money to keep the Matanuska Creamery afloat. That happened not long after dairy co-owner Karen B. Olson, a long time advocate for farming in the Matanuska Valley, was charged with covering up the crimes of Beus.

The charges against Beus could have sent him to jail for months, but his attorney and federal prosecutors negotiated a plea deal which they took before federal District Court Judge Timothy Burgess. 

There prosecutors argued for a sentence of 30 days in jail and three years of supervised release, while Beus's attorney asked for but a single day in jail and three years of supervised release. 

Burgess was left confused. "“I’m having trouble making sure I understand the full extent of the conduct,” Frontiersman reporter Andrew Wellner quoted him as saying. The judge subsequently delayed sentencing. 

The exact amount of money the government lost on the deal with the dairy remains unclear. Burgess plans an evidentiary hearing to try to get to the bottom of it. 

Meanwhile, the Matanuska Valley dairy business -- a relic of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal efforts to populate Alaska -- continues to struggle along in the form of the Havemeister Dairy, which makes milk from local cows available at a premium price in stores in Anchorage and the Valley.

Anyone interested in more of the history, including the efforts of former Gov. Sarah Palin's failed dairy bailout, is directed to the blog of former state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who spent years chronicling what he has called "cow-powered crony capitalism."

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com