Attorney fined for contempt of court as bounty hunter trial heads into 2nd week

Sparks fly between judge, defense team

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2000

Kenai's bounty hunter trial reached a fevered pitch Thursday before the jury even entered the court room.

During an early morning period set aside for the court and attorneys to address "housekeeping" matters related to the trial, the defense team of Chuck Robinson, John Murtagh and Jim McComas voiced exception to some of Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link's actions on Wednesday.

They questioned the court's ruling regarding a comparison between Washington and Alaska law made on Wednesday.

The defense team also took exception to being "dressed down" by the court in front of the jury.

One example they gave stemmed from Robinson's questioning of witness Ricky Welch.

"Are you familiar with the television show 'Cops'?" Robinson had asked Welch.

When Robinson followed his question to Welch by singing the show's theme song, "Bad Boys," his method of questioning was stopped by Link.

"I ask the court to excuse itself," said McComas Thursday morning, accusing the court of being biased.

Robinson also took advantage of the opportunity to make comments. When Robinson refused to take his seat at Link's request, Link threatened to find Robinson in contempt of court.

"Find me in contempt, Judge," said McComas, pushing Robinson aside.

When McComas wouldn't comply with Link's order to sit down, Link complied with McComas' request, found the attorney in contempt and fined him $500.

Robinson then asked if he would be permitted to sing in court.

The trial centers around events of Oct. 1, 1998, when David B. Cameron, Seth I. Oehler and Ronald L. Williams allegedly removed Ricky Welch at gunpoint from the home of his uncle and aunt Don and Margaret Roberts of Nikiski. Cameron, Oehler and Williams claim their actions were based on a September 1998 warrant issued by the state of Washington that was serviceable in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.

The three men are each charged with one count of kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, three counts of third-degree assault and one count of first-degree burglary.

Kidnapping is an unclassified felony, punishable by a fine up to $75,000 and five to 99 years imprisonment. Conspiracy to commit kidnapping is a class A felony, punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment.

The assault charges are class C felonies, carrying a fine up to $50,000 and up to five years in prison for each count. Burglary is a class B felony, punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and as much as 10 years in prison.

After a brief recess Thursday morning, the jury trial resumed.

When questioning of Welch was completed, Renee Cameron, wife of one of the defendants, was called to the stand.

Cameron answered questions regarding the involvement of her and her husband in the Oct. 1 incident. She detailed the steps they had taken to ensure the warrant would be serviceable in Alaska. She also gave testimony regarding the contact she had with Alaska State Troopers prior to the evening of Oct. 1.

Testimony by trooper Sgt. Dan Donaldson followed. He outlined his response on the night in question. McComas asked Donaldson to go through the events chronologically, from Don Roberts 9-1-1 call at 8:13 p.m., to his interview with David Cameron in the parking lot of Kmart at 9:54 p.m.

Tapes of interviews helped answer questions where Donaldson's memory was unsure. Missing was a taped record of Cameron's 9-1-1 call to notify troopers that he had Welch in custody.

Thursday ended with McComas having Donaldson review the packet of documentation Cameron had presented to him the night of Oct. 1, which included the warrant from the state of Washington.

The trial reconvenes this morning at 8:00.

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