A prominent Alaska psychiatrist faces a criminal charge for allegedly punching a man in the face for not wearing a face mask in a Juneau Fred Meyer earlier this month.
Joshua Sonkiss, 49, was charged with a single count of misdemeanor assault for the incident. He appeared in court Wednesday.
The 53-year-old victim, Bowen Dallmann, told police Sonkiss “punched him in the face” for “not wearing a mask” at the Juneau grocery store on June 1, according to a citation filed by Juneau municipal prosecutors.
The document notes a witness backed up Dallmann’s account.
“Dallmann wanted to pursue assault charges,” the citation says.
Sonkiss told police he “felt threatened by Dallmann,” according to the citation.
Dallmann could not be reached Thursday.
What exactly led to the confrontation over mask wearing in a busy Juneau store isn’t clear in the one-page citation. Neither Juneau police nor the municipal prosecutor’s office responded to requests for additional information about what happened. Face coverings have become a sometimes fraught issue as people return to businesses during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Public health officials recommend wearing masks in public when social distancing can’t be followed, but many stores do not require face masks. Fred Meyer “encourages” customers to wear masks.
Sonkiss specializes in forensic psychology and chemical dependency and is a past president of the Alaska Psychiatric Association. He has held a variety of high-level positions around the state, including the director of the behavioral health unit at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau said Sonkiss is a contractor there, but not an employee.
Sonkiss declined to comment Thursday, directing inquiries to his attorney, William Satterberg of Fairbanks.
Satterberg said he couldn’t say much about the pending criminal case, or what exactly led to the confrontation between the two men.
“There’s certainly two very definite sides to the story,” he said.
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