Public defender hit with two more charges

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- Public defender Wally Tetlow, with a busload of sympathetic criminal defense attorneys watching, was arraigned in Kenai this week on an assault charge stemming from a single-vehicle crash that injured his passenger, and had two more charges added the same day.

Tetlow refused to enter pleas because of what his lawyer called ''bad-faith prosecution.'' Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link entered an innocent plea for Tetlow to the felony assault charge, according to prosecuting and defense attorneys.

State prosecutor Ben Herren filed two additional charges Monday -- driving while intoxicated and failure to give notice of an accident. Both are misdemeanors. The judge entered innocent pleas for Tetlow on those charges, too.

Tetlow's lawyer, Jim McComas, filed a motion Monday asking the judge to dismiss the third-degree assault charge. The state's case against Tetlow amounts to ''selective, vindictive and bad-faith prosecution,'' McComas said.

Link dismissed a first-degree assault charge last month. The judge said a grand jury indictment in April was flawed. But Link let the third-degree assault charge stand when Tetlow was arraigned on Monday.

The state may bring the case before a grand jury again, Herren said.

Tetlow, 35, defends indigent clients in criminal cases. He drove his car into a utility pole in Anchorage at 2 a.m. Aug. 29. His passenger was injured but did not seek medical help, according to a transcript of the grand jury investigation.

Preliminary charges against Tetlow started with fourth-degree assault, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

On April 30, however, the state Office of Special Prosecution and Appeals filed charges of first- and third-degree assault.

A conviction for first-degree assault carries a presumptive jail term of five years.

McComas and other defense attorneys have accused prosecutors of charging Tetlow to intimidate aggressive and effective defenders.

Herren denied any vindictiveness, and said Tetlow was being treated ''as anyone else.''

Trial is scheduled for Dec. 3.

For Monday's arraignment, Tetlow and McComas appeared in person, accompanied by 16 other criminal defense lawyers, McComas said.

They traveled from Anchorage to Kenai, where Link sits, and back in a chartered bus.

Herren appeared by telephone.

''I didn't have the resources to charter a bus,'' he said.

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