Lewis found guilty in pipeline shooting

Posted: Friday, December 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fairbanks jury said Friday that Daniel Lewis is guilty of all five counts against him in last year's shooting of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Jurors deliberated for almost six hours Thursday and announced just after the Rabinowitz Courthouse closed for the day that they reached a decision and would announce it Friday morning.

Jurors convicted Lewis of oil pollution and first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the pipeline shooting that caused more than 285,000 gallons of oil to spill near Livengood Oct. 4, 2001. Cleanup costs have exceeded $13 million.

Lewis also was found guilty of fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons for handling the hunting rifle linked to the shooting while drunk, third-degree assault for pointing the gun at his brother and driving while intoxicated for operating a four-wheeler while drunk.

Lewis showed little reaction as District Court Judge Jane Kauvar read the verdicts then asked each juror to verify their guilty decisions.

The trial started Nov. 18 and included testimony from dozens of witnesses.

In his closing remarks, prosecutor Kevin Burke said the evidence against Lewis was overwhelming on all five charges and that Lewis' actions preceding his arrest were those of a guilty man, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Burke said Lewis fled on his four-wheeler when a Doyon helicopter flew over on a routine monitor flight shortly after the pipeline breech. He also said Lewis hastily discarded on the side of the road a .338-caliber rifle linked to the shooting. Burke said Lewis dressed in several layers of clothes as if to leave for a long time and he didn't carry his wallet or any identification.

''This evidence boxes Daniel Lewis in,'' said Burke.

Defense attorney Adam Gurewitz said in his closing statements that the older brother, Randy Lewis, was the shooter and had told a series of lies to lead investigators to Daniel. Gurewitz conceded that Randy did not flee when the helicopter approached on its monitoring flight but said that was only because he knew he had no chance of outrunning it with his older-model three-wheeler and decided to develop an alibi instead.

''The helicopter was circling, he was busted and the lies started coming,'' Gurewitz said.

Both sides told jurors Thursday the testimony of Randy Lewis, who Burke called to the stand the first week of the trial, supported their case.

Randy testified that he saw Daniel shoot at the pipeline while they were riding on the pipeline access road near the family's Livengood homestead. Before Daniel shot the round that pierced a hole in the pipeline, he shot a round at a support beam, Randy said.

On this shot, the gun recoiled and the scope, which was missing a protective rubber ring, cut Daniel's face, said Randy, who testified blood started running down Daniel's face.

Randy said Daniel then pointed the gun at him before turning it back at the pipeline and shooting a round that penetrated the half-inch thick inner steel.

Daniel Lewis faces as many as 22 years in prison at his May sentencing, although some of that time is expected to be suspended.

A federal jury in March found Lewis guilty of a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm for having the .338-caliber rifle linked to the shooting on his person on Oct. 4, 2001. He will be sentenced to 10 years in prison on that charge once a hearing date is set.

Lewis is in state custody and serving a 3.5-year prison sentence on an unrelated conviction of breaking into a Fairbanks U-Haul business in September 2001, stealing the safe and driving off with a truck.

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