Renkes says he misspoke about plea bargains

Posted: Sunday, April 06, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Attorney General Gregg Renkes -- who told reporters Thursday he would crack down on plea agreements in child sexual assault cases -- now says he misspoke.

Renkes will review all plea agreements in those cases, he said Friday, but he won't issue a policy directive that they require his prior approval.

''I should have said I am going to review them all,'' Renkes told the Associated Press Friday.

Renkes made his original comments at a press conference Thursday in which Gov. Frank Murkowski outlined his ''tough on crime'' package.

Renkes said then he would take an active role in cases involving sexual predators.

''What I am going to do is issue a policy that there is going to be no plea bargaining in sexual abuse cases without my approval,'' he said Thursday. But on Friday Renkes said his comments went too far.

''With over 150 of these a year, I am not going to get in the way of good decisions being made in a timely way,'' Renkes said.

Prosecuting child sexual assault will be a high priority for his department, Renkes said. He plans to review every plea agreement and talk with his lawyers about some of the cases, he said.

The Department of Law has many good prosecutors, Renkes said, and he did not intend to question their decisions.

Plea bargains should be viewed carefully because they can undermine the public confidence in the court system, he said, but sometimes they are an important tool for prosecutors, police and victims.

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