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Alaska Legislature

Ex-Alaska lawmaker sentenced on harassment count

  • Author: Becky Bohrer, Associated Press
  • Updated: June 21
  • Published June 21

JUNEAU — A former Alaska legislator accused of hitting a woman hard enough to rupture her eardrum pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor harassment charge.

State District Court Judge Kirsten Swanson sentenced Zach Fansler to one year of probation, roughly $900 in restitution and 80 hours of community service. He also must undergo an alcohol assessment program and follow any treatment recommendations.

The sentence also includes a 10-day jail sentence, all of which was suspended. Swanson said she wanted to ensure that Fansler seriously takes the assessment and follows the recommendations.

Swanson said Fansler has faced other consequences for his actions, saying his political career is likely over. But she said it’s not OK to hit someone and said the woman was impacted physically and emotionally.

Fansler participated in the proceedings by telephone.

Prosecutors said the 39-year-old Fansler and a woman he knew socially — the two previously had gone on a date — in January went to his hotel room in Juneau after a night of drinking.

The charging document says the two began to engage in “consensual sexual activity,” when Fansler, without permission or warning, slapped the woman in the head with both hands.

The woman said it seemed as though Fansler had struck her as hard as he could and that her face burned and her ears rang. She said she protested Fansler’s conduct, but he seemed too drunk to respond, and she left.

“Throughout the course of the evening, there had been no discussions about the nature of the type of sexual activity Fansler liked, and Fansler had not requested any permission to engage in any sort of aggressive sexual activity,” the document states.

In text messages, the woman later confronted Fansler, who apologized repeatedly and said he needed to get his drinking under control, according to the document.

The incident happened shortly before the legislative session began in January. It became public later that month, with reporting by the Juneau Empire.

Fansler’s attorney, Wallace Tetlow, told the judge Fansler was “deeply remorseful.” He said he didn’t want to minimize Fansler’s conduct. But he said the evidence suggested there was “at least general consent” between the two that there would be “some physical force involved.”

Fansler has no prior criminal convictions or arrests, prosecutors said.

Tetlow said Fansler is an attorney but has been unable to practice, given the publicity surrounding the case. He said Fansler is working two jobs that he would consider low-level given Fansler’s education and said community service would be burdensome.

The woman, in a victim impact statement, said what happened was not an accident, calling Fansler “predatory and intentionally violent.”

When the incident occurred, she said they were dressed; she said they did not have sex and never discussed any kind of “kink.” Afterward, she said she was afraid of running into him. She said she has been going to counseling to work on the fear she has felt since that night.

She said the uncertainty surrounding the case has been difficult and that she is happy with the proposed deal.

Assistant state Attorney General Paul Miovas Jr. called the incident a byproduct of Fansler’s drinking. But he said Fansler “enjoys hurting women,” an assertion Tetlow disputed.

Fansler, a first-term House Democrat from Bethel, resigned under pressure from fellow lawmakers in February. He was the second House Democrat to step aside amid misconduct claims.

Dean Westlake resigned in December after female aides accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. Westlake said he was sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable.

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