Trial of accused pipeline shooter begins

Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A lawyer for Daniel Lewis, the man charged with shooting the trans-Alaska oil pipeline last year, plans to present evidence discrediting the main witness in the case, Lewis' brother Randy.

''If you believe Randy Lewis when he gets up there, convict my client,'' said Adam Gurewitz, one of two public defenders representing Daniel Lewis in Fairbanks District Court. ''But if you don't believe him, you must acquit.''

Opening statements were heard in the case Monday in Fairbanks District Court. Gurewitz spoke for less than five minutes, calling the case against Lewis a ''classic rush to judgment.'' He said investigators charged Lewis with the shooting based on what they learned from Randy Lewis and that Randy's testimony would be the key to deciding the case.

Prosecutor Kevin Burke outlined the state's case in a 90-minute presentation aimed at reconstructing for jurors the events of Oct. 4, 2001, and the subsequent investigation. Burke told jurors he will prove that Lewis was the shooter.

The shooting Oct. 4, 2001 resulted in a spill of more than 285,00 gallons of oil from the pipeline.

After both sides ended their opening statements Monday, Burke called Doyon Security workers Joseph Nosko and Ernie Ford. Nosko and Ford were patrolling the pipeline by helicopter on a routine security check when the shooting occurred. They spotted the brothers and the oil spewing from the line.

Lewis' trial is expected to take more than three weeks. More than 30 witnesses are expected to be called.

Lewis is charged with oil pollution and first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the shooting as well as felony driving while intoxicated for allegedly driving the four-wheeler while drunk, third-degree assault for allegedly pointing his rifle at Randy Lewis and weapons misconduct for allegedly handling a gun while drunk.

Lewis will face up to 22 years in prison if convicted of those charges. A federal jury has already convicted Lewis of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He faces a 10-year prison term in that federal case.

Lewis is currently serving a 3 1/2-year sentence after being convicted of breaking into a Fairbanks U-Haul business in September 2001, stealing a safe and driving off with a truck. That case is not connected with the pipeline shooting.

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