Man sentenced to six months for videotaping paintball attack

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A man who videotaped his brother and another boy shooting paintballs at Alaska Natives was sentenced Friday to six months in jail, a $6,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.

District Court Judge Peter Ashman sentenced Charles Deane Wiseman, 20, during a hearing that stretched over five hours and included testimony from Wiseman's mother, father, boss and people hit with paintballs.

''To each of my victims, I want to make a personal apology,'' Wiseman said. Turning briefly from the defense table, he addressed assault victims seated in the first row. ''I'm sorry. I'm sorry.''

Five men and two women were hit by marble-size paintballs as they walked in the downtown or Mountain View sections of Anchorage the evening of Jan. 14.

Amy Keltner, struck twice, watched the silver Subaru with three white males circle the block and recorded the license plate. Police traced the car to Eagle River, 15 miles north of downtown Anchorage, and seized a paintball gun and a 25-minute videotape.

The tape depicted the three announcing their intention to ''nail some Eskimos.'' Wiseman, 19 at the time, was identified as the rider in the back seat with the video camera.

Chief assistant district attorney John Novak opened the sentencing hearing by replaying the tape. It showed men and women flinching as they were hit, shielding their faces after being struck at close range or glancing in bewilderment as the paint shells struck around them -- all as the youths laughed derisively.

Wiseman had moved to Alaska only in December, two years after the rest of the family arrived from Marysville, Wash. Wiseman's mother, Jeannette Wiseman, said her son had acted ''despicably'' in the assault but had never exhibited racist tendencies.

''It was never an issue that we felt it was necessary to talk about,'' she said.

Wiseman's father, Charles William Wiseman, said he was sickened by the tape and had no idea that either of his children were capable of such actions. He said his son has been extremely remorseful.

''He saw on videotape the kind of behavior I don't think he even realized he was capable of,'' the elder Wiseman said.

Both parents apologized to the victims. The senior Wiseman said he hoped to talk to each one. ''I hope you will forgive my family some day,'' he said.

Novak recommended that Wiseman spend time in jail and perform 1,500 hours of community service in four rural regions of the state.

Defense attorney Robert Herz contrasted that with the 1,000-hour sentence for Capt. Joseph Hazelwood, skipper of the tanker Exxon Valdez when it hit a charted reef in Prince William Sound and spilled 11 million gallons of Alaska crude oil.

Herz argued for community service but no jail time, saying Wiseman already had suffered public humiliation. He said Wiseman was a youthful offender with excellent chances of rehabilitation and no prior record. He recommended a suspended imposition of sentence, allowing Wiseman's record to be wiped clean if he followed conditions of probation.

Herz urged Ashman to note Wiseman's role as an accomplice and that the judge focus on the crime committed.

''We can't sentence Mr. Wiseman for all the racist injustice that Alaska Natives have experienced over the last 75 years,'' he said.

Ashman rejected the argument that Wiseman was not as culpable because he did not pull a trigger. The incident had racist overtones from the moment it began, Ashman said.

''It was an organized decision to commit a crime,'' Ashman said.

He noted that the participants committed the assaults ''with a kind of horrible glee.''

''Hunting human beings for sport, laughing all the while, and all in anticipation of reveling in the experience afterward, watching the videotape in their living room,'' Ashman said.

The violence merited jail time and negated the chance for the suspended imposition of sentence, despite Wiseman's youth, Ashman said.

Keltner, the only white victim, said the sentence was ''fair all around,'' especially the jail time.

''I didn't think that he'd get any,'' Keltner said. ''Our justice system does work once in a while.''

Victims Tim Nicholson and Sophie Miller also praised the jail sentence.

''That's what I wanted but I didn't think they would ever do it,'' Nicholson said.

Neither thought Wiseman's apology was sincere.

''He did not look at us,'' Miller said. ''He should have walked down the bar and said our names, individually.''

''I would like to ask him face to face why did it,'' Nicholson said.

''Why it was a good idea to do it,'' Miller said.

''And what he got out of it, if he got a rush out of it,'' Nicholson said.

The videotape attracted national media attention, led Gov. Tony Knowles to appoint a cabinet-level panel on tolerance and spurred the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to collect testimony on racism in Alaska.

John Tetpon, spokesman for the Alaska Federation of Natives, said the sentence, especially the jail time, sent a good signal to the rest of the community.

Herz said afterward he was disappointed by the sentence. Judge Ashland asked the community for comment and most people recommended community service instead of jail time, he said. In 15 years as a criminal defense attorney, he said, he could not remember another youthful first offender fined $6,000 for a similar offense.

Herz said no decision has been made regarding an appeal.

The two boys in the car, both 17, faced proceedings in juvenile court and their names have not been made public.

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