Alaska judge: State must re-indict former girls hockey coach accused of sexual abuse

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

An Alaska judge has ruled that in order for the case against former female hockey coach Tara Leighton to go to trial, the state must re-indict her on the charges of sexually abusing a girl eight years ago.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that state Superior Court Judge Randy Olson’s opinion sides with defense attorney Bill Satterberg, whose motion claimed a grand jury was given improper instruction in considering the allegations.

The News-Miner reports the judge "didn’t dismiss the charges against Tara Leighton, 30, who was charged with five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, but he said the Fairbanks district attorney’s office must convene a new grand jury and indict Leighton again if it wants to put her on trial."

Leighton is accused of abusing a member of a girls hockey team she coached. The abuse allegedly happened eight years ago, but it was not reported until 2008.

The ruling is significant because it sets a precedent, Satterberg told the News-Miner:

He basically said the entire system used to indict in felonies is inappropriate. Every pending felony should have a motion filed as a result of this. The way I read it, he’s dismissed it, but the state can re-indict. It’s not like the case is over or the charges have been dropped but certainly the case has been dismissed at this time subject to re-indictment.

Leighton’s trial is scheduled for Dec. 10. It will only go ahead if the state indicts her again. Read more at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.