Alaska Legislature

After an Anchorage lawmaker gets an open-container citation, another state senator says it was his beer

Editor’s note: The open-container citation against state Sen. Josh Revak was dismissed by the state of Alaska after the trooper who issued the ticket was arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. Read the latest coverage here.

Cited by Alaska State Troopers for driving with an open can of beer in his car, Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, plans to challenge the $220 ticket in court.

Another state lawmaker, Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, says it was his beer. Kawasaki was traveling with Revak from Anchorage to a fishing event on the Kenai Peninsula.

Troopers “asked me if it was my can,” Kawasaki said. “I said, ‘Yeah, it’s absolutely my can, and I’m super sorry.’ Anyways, I’m more sorry to Josh because it’s a mark on his record.”

Troopers fined Revak on Aug. 18. Under state law, having an open beer can in a moving vehicle is an infraction less than a misdemeanor.

Revak is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 27, but the situation became more complicated last week when the trooper who wrote the citation, Benjamin Strachan, was arrested on child sexual abuse charges.

It isn’t clear what will happen to the citation. A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety said that when a trooper leaves the department, a supervisor will review any open cases and investigations that he or she has and reassign those open cases to other Troopers.

Revak said he would be willing to pay the fine and settle the citation except for the fact that the record would remain.

“That’s what’s important to me. I’m real proud of my longtime sobriety, very proud of that,” Revak said.

He said he used alcohol heavily when he returned injured from the Iraq War, but he stopped drinking and hasn’t had alcohol in seven years. Since then, he’s helped others in recovery programs.

A citation “could cause harm to me, because I’m in programs of recovery. I’ve been in recovery a long time trying to help other people. Having a violation like this might discredit me, and especially in my job, it certainly doesn’t help, so I felt like it was kind of an injustice,” he said.

Revak and Kawasaki said they were driving south from Anchorage to the Kenai River Classic, an annual sportfishing and political networking event hosted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Kawasaki had stayed the night at the home of Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, and left that house on the morning of the 18th with a partially full can of King Street IPA.

“I just brought it with me. I didn’t want to waste it, didn’t want to dump it,” Kawasaki said.

Kawasaki said he put the beer in a cupholder between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat. Both men said Revak didn’t realize it was a beer rather than a soda or energy drink.

Kawasaki didn’t pull it out of the cupholder before Strachan flagged Revak’s car as driving 66 mph in a 55 mph zone and pulled it over around Mile 76.5 of the Sterling Highway. The beer can was immediately visible, according to the citation.

“I tried to tell the officer, it’s my open container,” Kawasaki said. “I swear to God, (Revak’s) not a drinker. I mean, he doesn’t, he hasn’t had anything to drink in years. And I tried to tell him that, and the officer’s like, well, he still has an open container. And so it’s his responsibility.”

The Department of Public Safety denied a public records request for video and audio records of the traffic stop, and an appeal of that rejection has not yet been resolved.

An interview request to Strachan before his arrest was answered by a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety who asked for written questions and responded by email.

The account provided by the spokesman matches the description on the citation and the accounts given separately by Kawasaki and Revak.

“At no point during the traffic stop did the driver identify himself as a legislator, and the Soldotna-based Troopers were not aware that he was an elected official,” said the spokesman, Austin McDaniel.

Revak’s car carries license plates identifying him as a wounded veteran; he said he doesn’t use the legislative license plates given to lawmakers.

Kawasaki and Revak each said they didn’t identify themselves as legislators.

“I don’t think any legislator would ever pull that card. That’s a dumb thing to say. It’s not like we’re really loved,” Kawasaki said.

Revak said he didn’t undergo a sobriety test; Kawasaki remembers Revak leaving the car to talk to troopers.

Asked whether a trooper conducted a sobriety test, McDaniel said troopers “observed no signs of impairment from the driver.”

Fred Slone, an Anchorage attorney with extensive experience in DUI cases, said the lack of a sobriety test isn’t unusual.

“If the trooper has a suspicion upon his initial contact with a driver, that he may be under the influence, he would embark on some field sobriety tests. But I don’t think they’re necessarily going to do field sobriety tests simply because there’s an open container in the vehicle without some other issue or observations by the trooper leading him to believe that they may be driving under the influence,” Sloane said.

Revak was not cited for speeding, the original reason for the traffic stop. Asked why, McDaniel said, “It is not uncommon for a Trooper to issue only one citation during a traffic stop, and the citations issued depend on a variety of circumstances including the Troopers’ discretion.”

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