Jacko third of three men to plead out in 2012 involving alleged rape, molesting of girl in Pedro Bay.
State prosecutors reached a deal with Michael Lee Jacko, 50, who recently pleaded guilty in a case involving the sexual abuse of a minor in Pedro Bay. Jacko was the third of three men the young female victim accused of a disturbing pattern of abuse and assault lasting years. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:
Audio transcript below:
The change of plea hearing was held Friday, October 30, after weeks of delays in a case that was filed in 2012. All parties joined the hearing by phone from different locations, with Judge Pat Douglass presiding.
"As to count three, sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree, how do you plea?" asked Judge Douglass.
"Guilty," said Jacko, leaving his lawyer to speak on his behalf for the rest of the hearing.
Second degree sexual abuse of a minor is a class B felony. The state dismissed four other charges, including two unclassified felonies carry up to 99 year sentences each. Based on the pre-2006 guidelines, when the pleaded to crime occurred, the state said Jacko will serve no more than ten years in jail.
"Our expectation is a sentence somewhere more than a couple years, something in the range of four years or thereabouts," said Clint Campion, District Attorney for Third Judicial District.
The allegations surfaced publicly in 2011, after the victim reported being raped and molested on a number of occasions over many years by three men.
In 2012, after a year-long investigation by state troopers, an Anchorage grand jury handed down indictments against Jacko, Benjamin Foss, and Kiska Shugak.
Foss, 53 at the time, reached a deal and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted third degree sexual assault. He was not sentenced to any time in jail, but was put on probation for three years. State troopers say he violated probation in 2014 when he was found with marijuana, alcohol, and drug paraphernalia in his luggage in Port Alsworth. Shugak, 23 at the time, pleaded guilty to attempted second degree sexual assault and sentenced to two years in jail. Following his release, he was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender.
The allegations against Jacko were the most severe. While most of the investigation is still sealed, a protective order request the victim filed in 2011 described occurrences of sexual abuse for roughly a decade, beginning when she was six. The problem, said Campion, is narrowing down specifically when those incidents occurred, and then proving them to a jury.
"Often in child sex abuse cases, understandably especially when there's a delayed report, a child is not going to be able to recall specific dates," he said. "In this case, we've got a report that came in several years after the alleged crimes, and we didn't feel like we were going to be able to prove each of the individual allegations beyond a reasonable doubt because of those concerns about specificities."
This case passed through the hands of some five different assistant district attorneys before it was settled. Javier Diaz in Anchorage was the final prosecutor assigned the case, but approval for the plea deal went through Campion, and even through his boss John Skidmore, the director of the law department’s criminal division.
Campion noted that while plea deals can often look like the offender is getting off easy, there are upsides the state considers, including sparing the victim the potential trauma of a trial.
"The plea agreement is an attempt to hold the offender accountable, which in some measure it does," he said. "It also avoids the difficulty of a trial. There is certainly value from the perspective that she [the victim] doesn't have to testify and be subject to cross examination. And there's some recognition that she was right, that she was telling the truth, and guilty pleas do reflect that.
To what extent Michael Jacko believes the accusations against him are true will likely be discussed at sentencing. Judge Douglass will listen to arguments from the prosecution and defense, and from the offender and the victim if they choose, before she sentences Jacko at hearing scheduled for February 22.