Officer gets public defender despite $100,000-plus salary

Megan Holland

An Anchorage police officer accused of multiple counts of sexual assault will get a public defender despite his $100,000-a-year salary, at least for now, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

"The charges in this case are equivalent to homicide charges," Judge Phillip Volland said after being asked by the prosecution to revisit his initial granting of public defender services. "This would be a very expensive case."

Eligibility for a public defender generally requires the defendant to be "an indigent person." While suspended police officer Anthony Rollins, a decorated, 13-year-veteran of the department, may not fit the normal profile, he does not have the money to hire a lawyer to defend him in this kind of case, Volland said.

Prosecutors had objected to Rollins being granted a state paid-for defense attorney because of his police income and properties he and his wife own around Anchorage.

Public records show Rollins was paid $142,892 by the Anchorage police department in 2008; and up until his mid-July arrest, the department paid Rollins $78,688. His wife, police Sgt. Denise Rollins, also made good money.

Their combined income for the past five and a half years was $1,168,602, according to municipal records.

Although Rollins has above-average income, he does not appear to have sufficient assets or cash to pay for a long ,complicated case, the judge said.

Rollins and his wife have two sons in college and even though, on paper, they have $1.1 million worth of property, they owe more on their two rental properties than what they are worth.

Their family home already has two liens on it. And they are limited out on credit cards, Volland said after reviewing Rollins' financial affidavit.

Volland said he also looked at Rollins' household expenses and determined they were reasonable.

"It's likely the family is already facing economic pressures," he said, because of the loss of Rollins' income after his arrest.

Rollins, 41, is accused of sexually assaulting six women over a span of three years. Some of the 20 charges against him say he abused his official position to commit the crimes.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Alaska private defense attorneys vary in hourly rates, but charges of $300 to $500 an hour for their services in a serious criminal case is not unusual, local lawyers say.

Volland said he doubted there's a lawyer in Anchorage who would take Rollins' case without a $100,000 deposit in cash or property; if he were in private practice, he certainly wouldn't.

The case is probably going to involve a lot of pre-trial legal battles, including a request to move the trial to another city because of the publicity in Anchorage. If the trial moves, Rollins would have to pay for his lawyer to live in another city for the duration. And it will likely be a three to four week trial-- hundreds of hours of an attorney's time.

Because Rollins is a member of the police union, his defense attorney, Office of Public Advocacy attorney Sue Carney, asked if the union would cover the cost of a private lawyer. Volland said he hadn't considered that and will inquire, but for now would grant Rollins a public defender.

Public defenders are not always free. Under some circumstances, Rollins could be billed for up to $5,000.

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Year-by-year salary

Salary paid to Officer Anthony Rollins

2004 104,908

2005 108,300

2006 118,995

2007 99,306

2008 142,891

2009 78,687

Note: The amounts for 2009 are through pay period ending 08/2 and include a leave cash-in in the amount of $10,795.25.

Source: MOA

Bail not reduced for accused Anchorage officer (8/15/09)
Prosecutors: No free lawyer for Anchorage officer (8/13/09)
Cop pleads not guilty in sex assaults (7/16/09)
Police officer charged with sexual assaults (7/15/09)