Two heroin busts among Dillingham criminal cases dismissed in January

Feb 16, 2016

A number of criminal charges were dismissed by Anchorage prosecutor's office in January, including two related to dealing heroin.

Using confidential informants to make controlled buys of heroin is perhaps the most effective tool the Dillingham Police has to combat the drug trade in town. Over the past year, DPD charged roughly half a dozen individuals after CI’s bought a dose or two of heroin from them. But as KDLG's Dave Bendinger reports, not all of those cases will be prosecuted.

Audio transcript: A couple of weeks back, Dillingham Police Chief Dan Pasquariello bumped into a young man at an evening church service a bit unexpectedly. Pasquariello said he was surprised to see Nicholas Tinker, a 36-year-old from Aleknagik, because the last he knew, Tinker was still in custody on a felony charge of selling heroin to a DPD confidential informant.

The next week Pasquariello found out that the Anchorage prosecutor assigned to the case had dismissed that one drug charge. That was confusing, says the chief, because he believed the investigation was solid.

"Yes it was a good case, our Department did a good job on it. We obtained an electronic monitoring warrant prior to making the controlled buy. We vetted our confidential informant, exposing all his baggage to the Anchorage district attorney's office prior to doing that," said Pasquariello.

The CI’s baggage, as you might imagine, was drug-related, but Pasquariello opted not to go into specifics. The assistant district attorney in Anchorage who dismissed the case, according to online court records, is Lawrence Monsma. His boss is Jack McKenna, who oversees Bristol Bay criminal cases.

"I understand the Chief's concern, and why he would be very interested in the case," said McKenna. "They did put a lot of work into it, and there's a reason to put that work in there, because I share the community's concern there with the rise in heroin use. That particular case, though, we had some proof problems. It didn't seem like there was anything we could do as far as, you know, the event happens, there's not a lot you can do to go back in time and change what it is."

Tinker’s wasn’t the only case to be dismissed. Gust Romie also allegedly sold a dose of heroin to a police CI in a similar investigation. Proscecutors dismissed that case, too.

After Romie was charged by DPD but before he was arrested, Anchorage police found him and two others in possession and perhaps using a substantial amount of heroin in a car at Goose Lake Park. APD wrote that Romie had six loaded syringes with 22.5 grams of heroin and a bundle of $18,000 cash. Last week, at a court hearing in the Anchorage jail, Romie pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted fourth degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and was sentenced a flat six months in jail, which he is currently serving. Prosecutors have not said if Romie’s Dillingham case was dismissed as part of the deal in Anchorage.

Pasquariello is disppointed but diplomatic. He says that communication problems may be partly to blame; before Dillingham's last ADA quit her job, the working relationship between law enforcement and the prosecutors worked better.

"We had the ability to go over and talk to them face to face, express both the Department's concerns, the concerns of the community, how certain cases fit in with other aspects of the community. It's now become much more difficult to try to express those concerns through telephone. But I am hopeful that things can only get better."

Improving that communication between law enforcement and the prosecutors will happen, said McKenna, but it might take some time.

"I think it's just a process of getting the attorneys that are here used to working with, knowing and getting in touch with the officers out in Dillingham," he said.

The Anchorage office has now assigned one attorney to handle all of the Dillingham court criminal cases. Pamela Dale took the reigns at the end of January, and though she lives in Anchorage, agency coordination has begun to improve.

But Dale’s assignment came after other prosecutors dropped dozens of charges during the month of January. The cases involve a range of alleged criminal activity, from a young man police charged with setting a truck on fire on Gauthier Way, to assaults, harassment, and drunk driving. DUI cases that were dropped include those of the woman alleged to have slammed into a utility pole downtown, the man accused of driving drunk in Aleknagik just after the bridge was completed, and the woman police said drove drunk for some 15 miles with three kids in the car.

Those Dillingham cases join an ever-growing list of dismissed criminal cases in Naknek that has left Bristol Bay’s eastside law enforcement and residents confounded and confused, too.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org