Crime & Courts

3 of the Fairbanks Four settle lawsuit against city for $1.59 million each

Fairbanks city officials say three of the four men wrongfully convicted for a 1997 homicide involving a teenager have reached a settlement in their civil lawsuit against the city for $1.59 million each.

Kevin Pease, George Frese and Eugene Vent agreed to the settlement, but Marvin Roberts declined, according to a statement from city attorney Tom Chard. An order dismissing Pease, Frese and Vent’s case was issued in late September, according to court records.

The city did not admit liability or fault when agreeing to the settlement, the statement said.

The four men each spent nearly 20 years behind bars for the beating death of John Hartman. Their convictions were vacated in 2015 after the case was reexamined during a five-week hearing during which evidence was presented that other people killed Hartman.

[After 18 years in prison, the Fairbanks Four settle into life as free men]

The four men sued the city and four police officers in 2017 for wrongful imprisonment. They had signed an agreement granting their release that said they would not file a lawsuit, but have since argued the document was not legally binding because they were coerced.

A lower court judge dismissed the case but an appeals panel overturned that decision in 2020. Litigation has been ongoing since.


The city’s insurer, Alaska Municipal League Joint Insurance Association, made the decision to settle the lawsuit, Chard wrote. The city was not informed about why the company decided to settle.

“Insurers settle cases for a variety of reasons, including the costs of continued litigation, the likelihood of expensive appeals and the potential that the case could continue for many more years to come,” Chard wrote in the statement.

Because Roberts declined the offer, his lawsuit continues in federal court. The attorneys representing him were not immediately available for comment on Monday.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at