ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct has filed formal charges against a Bethel judge who jailed a witness to make sure she was sober when the time came to testify against her boyfriend.
Judge Dale Curda now faces a formal hearing before the commission. It could then recommend sanctions to the Alaska Supreme Court, which is in charge of disciplining judges.
The charges came in a case in which the Alaska Supreme Court earlier this year ordered a new trial.
Wilfred Raphael of Mountain Village was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted in 1995 of kidnapping and assault. He appealed the conviction in Bethel Superior Court on the basis that jailing the woman amounted to coercion that tainted her testimony.
The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year, saying ''the trial court's near-total denial of ... due process rights sent the message that (the woman) was at the mercy of the power of the state and ... did not feel free to testify unfavorably to the state.''
Prosecutor Joseph Wrona and Curda discussed the woman's ability to remain sober, according to the commission. Curda made the decision to jail her before bringing her into the hearing, the commission found.
When he told the woman of his decision, she assured him she could remain sober and take care of her children, according to court records. The woman, however, remained jailed for three days.
Two of the nine members of the commission dissented from the decision to issue the charges. Those members were Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly and attorney Arthur Peterson. Michael McConahay, another lawyer, did not participate. The commission has three judges, three lawyers, and three public members.
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