Alaska AG tries to force feds’ hand in stalled human trafficking case against Bill Allen

Feb 8, 2016

A new law may clear an impasse in a stalled human trafficking case against Bill Allen, the former star witness in the federal corruption probe of Alaska politicians.

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards at a press conference in January.
Credit Skip Gray / 360 North

APRN:  Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards wants the state authority to pursue charges against former VECO boss Bill Allen for allegedly transporting a young woman across state lines for sex. The state has tried before, but in a letter Friday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Richards cites a new law that requires her to allow the state’s pursuit of the federal case, or provide a detailed explanation why she won’t.

Richards, the state’s top lawyer, said the explanation would matter.

“Because, of course, there has been a longstanding supposition … that maybe an immunity deal was cut with Mr. Allen that basically allowed him to not be prosecuted for the crimes committed to his minor victims in return for his testimony against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in his political corruption trial in 2008,” Richards said.

Allen, once a powerful Alaska businessman and political kingmaker, was the key witness against Stevens. Allen has also been accused in a civil lawsuit of having paid sex with a teenager, starting, she said, when she was 15 and continuing after she moved out of state.

Defenders of the late Sen. Stevens allege Allen lied on the stand in the Stevens trial to avoid charges he victimized the girl.

If the state had reliable evidence Allen had sex with a girl younger than 16, it could bring a child sexual abuse case under state law. John Skidmore, the head of the criminal division at the state Department of Law, said both Anchorage Police and the FBI investigated.

“We did review the information in that investigation and came to the conclusion that we would not be able to file any state charges against Mr. Allen for anything found in that investigation,” Skidmore said. “However, our review did suggest there were potential Mann Act violations.”

The Mann Act is a federal law making it a crime to transport a person over state lines for prostitution or human trafficking. For the Mann Act, the victim’s age doesn’t matter. But that’s a federal law, and Skidmore said the feds have refused to prosecute the case, or to turn over their investigative files.

“We want to know the rest of the information that the Department of Justice has so that we can determine if there are appropriate Mann Act violations, then we’d like to pursue those,” he said.

The feds can “cross-designate” state attorneys to prosecute federal cases, but they’ve refused to do that, too.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan says the Justice Department has been ignoring the state’s requests for information about Allen for years, dating back to Sullivan’s turn as state attorney general.

“Well, that ends today,” Sullivan said, speaking at the state’s press conference.

The state has new leverage in federal law. Sullivan last year added an amendment to a human trafficking bill that requires the U.S. Attorney General to cross-designate states to prosecute Mann Act violations, or explain why that would undermine the administration of justice.

Sullivan said the state’s use of the new law sends a message of deterrence.

“That if you’re a perpetrator of these kinds of crimes – sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking – that the State of Alaska, state officials, federal officials working together are not going to rest until you are brought to justice,” Sullivan said.

Paul Stockler, an attorney representing Allen in the civil case, says Allen didn’t violate the Mann Act.

“He wasn’t transporting girls to Alaska for sex,” he said.

Also, Stockler said, his client didn’t knowingly have sex with a minor.

“She held herself out to be of age, and we believe her to have been of age,” he said.

Allen, former owner of oil field services company VECO, served a jail sentence for bribing state legislators. His testimony helped convict Sen. Stevens, but that conviction was later thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.

Reach the author at lruskin@alaskapublic.org