A man connected with the April robbery of a Nikiski bar has pleaded guilty to being involved with the crime.
Joshua Pepper, 27, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery in the second degree, a class C felony, on Oct. 3 after nearly five months of court proceedings.
By pleading guilty to conspiracy, five additional charges against Pepper were dismissed. The charges were robbery in the first degree and four counts of assault in the third degree.
The plea agreement calls for five years of jail time, with two suspended, followed by a four-year probation period.
In addition, restitution to the victims has been ordered, but the amount has not been set.
Authorities arrested two men in connection with a robbery at the 4-Lands Bar and Liquor Store in May. The other defendant in the case, Gordon Stanley, is still being charged with seven offenses, all of which are felonies.
Stanley is charged with two counts of robbery, four counts of third degree assault and one count firing a weapon at a building. His next court appearance is set for Oct. 31.
According to court documents, Stanley alledgedly entered the bar while Pepper knowingly brought him there.
The April 7 incident involved a masked, shotgun-toting man who entered the bar and demanded money from the bartender. When a patron asked if the man was joking, the gunman became irate, pumped the shotgun, and fired a round into the ceiling. A bartender hurriedly grabbed money from the register and placed it on the bar counter, at which time the man snatched it up and fled from the scene on foot.
The masked man took off with approximately $307.
In addition to the bartender, two patrons and the bar's owner were present at the time of the robbery.
Responding troopers, including a K-9 unit, searched the area and followed a set of tracks in fresh snow leading into the woods directly behind the bar. Along the way, they found a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a green corduroy jacket. The tracks led north until they disappeared at North Miller Loop Road, where troopers found more evidence: a grey knit ski mask, a black trash bag, and a $20 bill, according to court documents.
Investigators conducted interviews with those present during the robbery, at which time the bartender said a man named Joshua Pepper had come in shortly before the incident, purchased some pull tabs but didn't order a drink.
Pepper only stayed for a short time, but used the phone at the end of the bar before he left, the bartender alleged.
About a week after the robbery investigators contacted Stanley. He stated he was working on a motor home during the day of the robbery and had not seen Pepper in a while. Stanley admitted he heard about the robbery, and then refused to provide a DNA sample to eliminate himself as a suspect.
Two days later, investigators served Stanley a search warrant. He spoke with the investigators and said Pepper and a guy named "Mike" allegedly tried to sell him the shotgun after the robbery, which would explain any fingerprints found on the weapon.
On April 20, investigators interviewed Pepper, his girlfriend and another girl. Pepper said he "does not remember" what he was doing the day of the robbery, nor does he remember owning a corduroy jacket, or who he called using the bar's phone. That same day, a car with a title transfer pending to Pepper was impounded. In the car, investigators found strips of duct tape displaying a similar dimpling pattern to that taped around the nose and mouth opening of the ski mask recovered near the scene. They also found clumps of hair similar in appearance to what they found inside the mask.
Pepper and Stanley alledgedly admitted to separate acquaintances that they had robbed the bar, the acquaintances told investigators. The two men were shortly arrested thereafter.
All items seized during the investigation have been forfeited to the state, excluding the vehicle.
As part his agreement Pepper must admit to the facts of the police report.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.