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Track Palin weighs Anchorage Veterans Court for domestic violence charges

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: October 20, 2016
  • Published May 26, 2016

PALMER — Track Palin, the 27-year-old son of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, may face criminal domestic violence charges in a special court for military veterans.

Palin, a U.S. Army veteran, was arrested in Wasilla in January after what police described as a drunken altercation with a woman at his family's home on Lake Lucille.

A woman at the house told emergency dispatchers a man "punched her in the face," according to a sworn affidavit filed by a Wasilla police officer. The woman later said she and Palin got into an argument and he struck her after she told him she had called police.

She later found him holding a cocked rifle near his head, making her fear he'd shoot himself, according to the affidavit. She said she ran out and eventually hid under a bed.

Police later found an unloaded AR-15 on the kitchen counter. Palin had a blood-alcohol level of .189 based on a breath test, the affidavit said. The woman had a bruised and swollen left eye, as well as a "small red area" near her knee where she said Palin kicked her.

The Wasilla Police Department reported the arrest the same day Sarah Palin endorsed Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Track Palin was charged with three misdemeanors: fourth-degree domestic violence assault; interfering with a report of domestic violence; and fourth-degree weapons misconduct.

The victim in the case in February requested a "no-contact" order against Palin be lifted but apparently no action was taken, Palin's attorney Kevin Fitzgerald said during a court hearing Thursday in Palmer. District Court Judge John Wolfe told the Palmer District Attorney's office to contact the woman to make sure she still wants the order deleted.

Fitzgerald participated in the hearing by phone. Palin wasn't there.

Fitzgerald told the judge he intends to transfer the Palin case to Anchorage Veterans Court, a program for veterans charged with misdemeanors who may need behavioral health treatment.

The next Veterans Court hearing date is Tuesday, he said. "My client intends on attending that."

But Palin is not officially participating in the court program yet, according to Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion, a military veteran who oversees it.

"We've been in negotiations," Campion said. "Ultimately, a few things have to happen. The biggest thing is No. 1, Mr. Palin has to decide he would want to go down that path. He hasn't officially yet. I think he's trying to gather information."

Anyone eligible for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is eligible for the program.

The VA would need to evaluate Palin's needs and present him with a treatment plan, Campion said. Then Palin could decide whether he wants to participate.
The hearing Tuesday Palin is expected to attend would be part of his decision process, Campion said.

Fitzgerald couldn't be reached after Thursday's hearing for more information.

The day after her son's arrest became public, Sarah Palin told a crowd of Trump supporters at an Oklahoma rally that Track, "like so many others — they come back a bit different. They come back hardened." She called her son a combat veteran but didn't specifically say he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A U.S. Army spokesperson didn't return a request for Track Palin's military history, including details of any combat duty. Palin is known to have deployed to Iraq for a year and served with the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Numerous studies have shown a connection between combat-related PTSD or depression and anger or violence, especially domestic violence.

Anchorage Veterans Court, one of the oldest such programs in the country, tries to get treatment for criminal defendants who are eligible for VA services they may not be using.

It relies on alternative sentencing plea agreements that emphasize behavioral health, substance use or other VA treatment programs.

The system requires criminal defendants plead guilty or no contest to at least one charge against them. They receive conventional court sentences if they don't complete their VA treatment but a lesser sentence if they do.

Veterans see District Court Judge David Wallace initially every two weeks, more often than defendants in traditional court proceedings.

There are currently 23 participants in the program, involving 17 state cases and six municipal ones. Participants are expected to live in Anchorage, though exceptions are made for veterans who work on the North Slope and others, said Campion, who just accepted a veteran from Fairbanks into the program.

The services Palin would need are Anchorage-based, but his Wasilla residency won't necessarily make him ineligible, Campion said.

He's trying to make the program open to anybody who thinks they can benefit from its services, he said. "I'm not looking at it any differently than I would any other kid."

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