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Anchorage mayoral candidate Demboski's divorce cases raise question of truthfulness

It took two court cases for Anchorage mayoral candidate Amy Demboski to dissolve her marriage to her first husband, an Air Force airman named Christian Dempsey. Put together, the cases suggest that one or the other spouse -- or both -- had not been truthful under oath.

Demboski said in a recent interview that she didn't lie.

The necessity for two cases to dissolve a single marriage stemmed from Demboski's pregnancy, the paternity of the child and whether the couple properly disclosed their situation to the court.

In the first case, filed Feb. 28, 1996, when Demboski -- then Amy Hyatt -- and Dempsey were both 19, documents and statements in the court file say that Dempsey was not the father of the child.

Superior Court Judge Brian Shortell dismissed that case without granting the divorce because the couple's initial filing asserted Demboski was not pregnant. A document purportedly signed by Dempsey that sought to amend the initial filing with a reference to the pregnancy and an assertion it was not his child was a "forgery by someone else," Shortell declared.

Demboski denied in an interview that the document was a forgery. She said it was a proper affidavit by Dempsey that was notarized by an Air Force official. And the campaign said he was the biological father of the child.

The second case was filed April 24, 1997, when both Demboski and Dempsey were 20. By the time of that filing, the child had been born and Dempsey took responsibility as the father, agreeing to pay child support even as he forswore all visitation rights.

There was no reference in the second case file that someone else was the father. Dempsey said Demboski had failed to alert him to the birth. He learned the baby girl had been born four months after the fact, he said in telephonic appearance in court.

Another Superior Court judge, Sen Tan, granted the dissolution in the second case May 30, 1997. Demboski married her current husband, Ben Demboski, an Anchorage firefighter, the following year.

Questions surrounding the divorce and Demboski's truthfulness in the case have become an issue in the mayoral campaign after surfacing on two liberal blogs, "The Immoral Minority" and "The Mudflats." The Mudflats report was cited on KSKA radio in Anchorage.

Some of the facts in the divorce are not clear.

Though a clerk's handwritten notes of the hearing in each case are in the files, the audio recording from the first case has disappeared. Court officials said this week they searched for two days but came up empty. They said it appeared to have vanished in 2000 when analog tapes from the period were digitized. The recording wasn't noticed missing until Alaska Dispatch News requested it a week ago, they said.

The recorded hearing in the second case was provided by court officials.

Demboski talked about the divorce in a telephone interview April 22 but has not responded to requests for a follow-up interview. Dempsey, who has also remarried and is living in Virginia, could not be reached. Messages left with his father-in-law and on his wife's mobile phone were not returned.

But the paper records in the court system show that Demboski, who then went by her maiden name of Amy Lynn Hyatt, married Dempsey in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Oct. 27, 1995. In both divorce cases, they said they never lived together and didn't accumulate community property or wealth.

In the first petition for a dissolution of their marriage, filed in Superior Court in Anchorage, Dempsey gave his address as Royal Air Force Lakenheath in Suffolk, England, and she gave hers as Chugiak. A U.S. notary in Lakenheath said she saw both sign and swear to the document on Jan. 24, 1996. Both said they were on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. The Anchorage court received the document and opened the case the following month.

Among the statements in the petition the couple swore was true was this: "There are no minor or dependent children born of or during this marriage or adopted during this marriage, and the wife is not now pregnant."

Later in the case, Demboski said she was pregnant and that the child was due in July 1996. In the second case, she said the baby girl was born July 24, 1996.

If the baby was born after a normal nine-month term, Demboski would have gotten pregnant in October 1995, around the time of her marriage. She would have been three months pregnant when she signed the petition and and four when the petition was filed with the Anchorage court.

The first reference to a child on the way came in a hearing before a divorce master in the first case April 2, 1996 -- the hearing with the missing recording.

The clerk's notes show Demboski was present in court but not her husband. That's confirmed by a waiver of appearance signed by Dempsey in which he agreed the case could proceed without him. In that waiver, he said he didn't even have a telephone and couldn't accept a collect call from the court in Anchorage.

The notes don't reference Demboski being sworn at the hearing, but that's the usual practice in court. The recording in the second case shows she was sworn before she testified.

The notes show that under questioning from the divorce master, Andrew Brown -- a fill-in for the judge -- Demboski said she was pregnant and that her husband was not the father. Brown told her she needed to amend the initial petition for dissolution and its claim she wasn't pregnant. He gave her until June 2, 1996, to file.

On June 24, 1996, Judge Shortell rejected the divorce "due to the Petitioners' failure to file an amendment as to Christian Dempsey not being the father of the child to be born."

But another document showed up in the file: a sworn statement made in Lakenheath by Dempsey dated May 21, 1996. It said, "I am not the father of the child to be born to Mrs. Amy L Hyatt in July 1996."

On July 26, 1996, two days after Demboski gave birth, Shortell affirmed his initial order denying the divorce and rejecting the statement from Dempsey as a fraud. He said the signature on the May 21 document didn't match Dempsey's signatures elsewhere in the file.

"Thus it appears the May 21, 1996, signature is a forgery by someone else," Shortell wrote in his order. There's no indication that anyone initiated a criminal investigation of the matter.

Demboski and Dempsey filed a new divorce case in 1997. This time, they filed a dissolution "with children" and Dempsey agreed to pay child support. Demboski, by then out of the Air Force and working as an orthodontic technician, said her child was covered by Medicaid -- a program candidate Demboski does not want to expand now -- and that she was collecting support under the federally funded Women, Infants and Children program.

At the hearing before Divorce Master Brown on May 28, 1997, Dempsey said he was not told of the child's birth until four months after it happened. Demboski testified Dempsey was the father, and the judge listed him as the father in the child support agreement. The judge didn't ask them to explain the inconsistency with the first case.

When asked in the April 22 interview about the divorce, Demboski said she did not recall two separate cases were filed. She acknowledged she was pregnant at the time. In a follow-up email from her campaign, she wrote: "The initial form used was dissolution without children simply because the child had not been born yet. I was pregnant at the time."

Demboski said she has never lied under oath.

"Maybe when I was 19 or 20 … maybe I wrote something wrong," Demboski said in the interview. "But I didn't lie about anything. You guys are making a mountain out of a molehill."

She also said she did not recall any mention of forged documents in court. In the follow-up email from her campaign, Demboski wrote:

"After reviewing the documents, it is clear that Christian submitted a notarized affidavit, and an accompanying letter from the 48th Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath that was signed by an officer in the United States Air Force. I do not know why the judge rejected it, that would be a question for the judge."

Demboski said she joined the military when she was 18, and married Dempsey while she was in technical training. She said she and Dempsey were deployed to England, and she became pregnant with her daughter. She said she moved back to Alaska for health reasons. She said she received an honorable discharge from the military.

"I did get divorced, yes. My ex-husband was upset. He figured there must be a reason. He was upset, we went our separate ways," Demboski said. "That was it ... we were young. That was it."

Contact Richard Mauer at rmauer@alaskadispatch.com.

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