State decides not to prosecute man arrested at Sitka airport

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

SITKA (AP) -- The state decided Friday not prosecute a 58-year-old Washington man who was arrested at the Sitka airport after allegedly threatening an airline worker.

But Alaska Airlines has banned Dr. Bruce Stevenson from its flights for life because of Thursday's incident.

Stevenson apparently became upset about possible delays in retrieving baggage, police said. Lt. John Baeza said Stevenson told the Alaska Airlines ticket agent, ''If I don't get my bag I'm coming back here as an assassin.''

''He said it seriously, with no hint of a smile or that he was joking, and all the witnesses took it very seriously,'' Baeza said.

Sitka Police Chief Bill McLendon criticized the state's refusal to take the Woodinville, Wash., medical doctor to court.

''The decision reeks of favoritism and documents a steady history of political maneuvering and ineptness in handling cases,'' McLendon said Friday, ''To say we have no confidence in (prosecutors') abilities would be a gross understatement.''

Earlier Friday, Assistant District Attorney Corinne Vorenkamp told the Daily Sentinel in Sitka that the state did not have enough evidence for a criminal prosecution against Stevenson, a doctor at the prestigious Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

''While there's certainly no accounting for the exceedingly poor taste and bad judgment of essentially ignoring a national tragedy, the state has decided to not file a complaint,'' Vorenkamp said.

Responding to a call from the airport Thursday afternoon, Sitka police arrested Stevenson on a felony charge of terroristic threatening and a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault.

Stevenson was held overnight in the Sitka jail without bail, and was released Friday after the charges were dropped.

In Anchorage, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan Collins said the federal government does not have jurisdiction in the case.

''The threat wasn't made by telephone or by wire, and it wasn't made in the air,'' Collins said. ''If the plane were in the air at the time, we'd have jurisdiction -- maritime, or territorial -- but on the ground, in the airport, to a ticket agent, from what details I understand about this case we don't have jurisdiction. That would be up to the state.''

Vorenkamp said that to be prosecuted for terroristic threatening under state law, a person would have to ''knowingly make a false report that a circumstance dangerous to human life exists or is about to exist.''

''What Mr. Stevenson said certainly was insensitive to the fears of the person to whom he said it, and it's appalling in light of the national tragedy that happened this week,'' she said, ''but under state law it is not a crime.''

However, Stevenson will never be allowed onboard an Alaska Airlines flight again, company spokesman Greg Witter said from the airline's Seattle headquarters.

''We have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who tries to abuse or threaten our employees in any way, shape or manner,'' he said.

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