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Prosecutors charge Alaska House majority press secretary with assault

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: July 7, 2016
  • Published July 6, 2016

Update, July 7, 12:45 pm: House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Thursday that Will Vandergriff, the former spokesman for the Republican-led House majority, has resigned and no longer works for the Alaska Legislature.

Original Story: New details emerged about the assault accusations against the Alaska House spokesman, Will Vandergriff, in charges filed against him by the Anchorage district attorney, including assertions by his girlfriend, a legislative aide, that he held her by the throat and hit her repeatedly.

Vandergriff had been initially arrested by Anchorage police in June. At the time, prosecutors hadn't made a decision on whether to charge him, and if they would, what the charges would be.

Those questions were resolved by June 28 when District Attorney Clint Campion charged Vandergriff, 37, with two counts of fourth-degree assault.

The assault charges stem from the night of June 12, a Sunday.

That night, Vandergriff's neighbor called 911 and said he heard a woman screaming from inside an apartment in Anchorage's Government Hill neighborhood. The woman said she was being strangled, the charging document said.

Police arrived at the building around 11:40 p.m. A group of people pointed officers to an apartment window where they said they believed the arguing was coming from. Officers went inside the building and could hear people arguing, the charging document said.

A woman left an apartment, crying and shaking. The woman told police that she came home around 10 p.m and "made (Vandergriff) mad … just really mad." She said she just wanted to go to bed, but Vandergriff yelled in her face, the document said.

"She said he got on top of her on the bed, pinning her arms down while she was lying down," the charging document said. She told police that Vandergriff would not let her leave and hit her on the side of the head several times.

"She reported that her ears were still ringing. She reported that he then held her down by the throat. She said she did not lose consciousness and she was able to breathe but 'it was tough,' " the charging document said.

She told police that since February, "something like this had happened three to four times previously, but this time was the worst," the document said.

Vandergriff did not return messages left on his cellphone Wednesday. He is out on bail, according to court records.

Last month, House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Vandergriff was put on administrative leave after he was arrested. Vandergriff has worked in the House Majority Press Office since 2006. He earned $8,896 per month, according to a salary list for the 2016 legislative session.

Chenault said in June that Vandergriff's employment status would be considered "pending the outcome of the judicial process." Chenault did not respond to a message left on his cellphone Wednesday.

Vandergriff's arrest occurred while the Legislature was in a special session in Juneau.

The charging document said Vandergriff told police that he was arguing with his girlfriend but he denied assaulting her.

The woman told officers that she did not think Vandergriff was going to kill her, but "she did think he might really hurt her." She said he might have bruises on his chest because she tried to push him off, the charging document said.

Vandergriff had "what appeared to be bruising on his chest" and his girlfriend had "redness" on her arms and neck, the document said.

Vandergriff is scheduled to be arraigned on the assault charges on July 22.

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