I received a very interesting e-mail regarding the Alaska Fund Trust website, the AFT agreement and how the two together may have implications in Alaska criminal law.
The AFT website, which exists to solicit donations to the fund, states in the FAQs page:
9. Can the funds be used for personal purposes?
No. Donations can only be used for legal expenses incurred by counsel on behalf of the Governor, her family, and staff as approved by the Trustee.
13. Why is this fund being created?
The Trust Fund is being created to assist the Governor, her family, and staff in paying legal expenses and costs incurred from previous investigations as well as future complaints filed. Her staff is similarly being targeted by these complaints and has also incurred and is incurring significant costs.
As we have previously seen, the agreement fails to state that the purpose of the trust fund is to pay legal expenses, saying instead that its exclusive purpose is to provide a proper means for the acceptance of money, property, and services, including, if necessary, pro bono legal services, to provide for all reasonable, necessary, and appropriate fees or charges incurred by (i) SARAH PALIN as a result of the fact that she is Governor of the State of Alaska or as a result of the performance of her duties as Governor of the State of Alaska; and (ii) Covered Individuals, that may be selected or designated by the Trustee as provided herein, as a result of or arising out of their association or relationship with or employment by SARAH PALIN, in her capacity as Governor of the State of Alaska.
Further, it includes a clause regarding rights of withdrawal up to the maximum yearly amount to fall within the Federal Gift Tax exclusion. It applies to each beneficiary and shall be exercisable only by written notice to Trustee of the amount Donee wishes to withdraw, but no purpose for said withdrawal need be shown.
I'm sorry if I keep quoting the text of the agreement in so many posts, but bear with me, here comes the juicy bit:
Alaska Statutes 11.46.100 defines an assortment of theft crimes, including alternative means of committing theft which include a person who: "(1) with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate property of another to oneself or a third person, . . .obtains the property of another; (2) the person commits theft of lost or mislaid property under AS 11.46.160; (3) the person commits theft by deception under AS 11.46.180; (4) the person commits theft by receiving under AS 11.46.190; (5) the person commits theft of services under AS 11.46.200; [or] (6) the person commits theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received or held under AS 11.46.210."
In turn, for example, theft by deception (false pretenses) is defined in Alaska Statutes11.46.180: "(a) A person commits theft by deception if, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate property of another to oneself or a third person, the person obtains the property of another by deception."
"Deception," in turn, is defined in Alaska Statutes 11.81.900(18); while it "does not include falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance," is fairly broadly defined to include: "knowingly (A) creat[ing] or confirm[ing] another's false impression that the defendant does not believe to be true, including false impressions as to law or value and false impressions as to intention or other state of mind; (B) fail[ing] to correct another's false impression that the defendant previously has created or confirmed; (C) prevent[ing] another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property or service involved; (D) sell[ing] or otherwise transfer[ring] or encumber[ing] property and fail[ing] to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether or not that impediment is a matter of official record; or (E) promis[ing] performance that the defendant does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed."
Summing up: the website soliciting donations states that the money raised will be used only to pay certain legal expenses. The agreement says no such thing. The website states the money cannot be used for personal purposes. The agreement contains a clause that says otherwise.
Perhaps it would help clarify things if an Alaskan citizen or person from elsewhere who contributed to this fund would challenge the whole arrangement in a court of law--or if an impartial Alaskan prosecutor would investigate the matter under state criminal law.
An important point: the State of Alaska is obliged to prosecute any appropriate criminal action. The victims and witnesses in a criminal action should bear no costs whatsoever. Prosecuting authorities bring those cases not on "behalf of" a given victim but on behalf of all the people of the State of Alaska, against whom criminal activities are considered a transgression. A larceny is not viewed so much as an offense against the individual as against the community.
A little more food for thought regarding official pronouncements from a certain governor's associates concerning the purposes of this "trust fund": it appears that where a "trust fund" has been set up expressly to counteract citizen requests for clarification of state ethics laws (including at least some number of them under pending investigation at the time) and to deter additional lawful citizen filings essentially by pre-judging every one of them as "frivolous" and unworthy of the Board's attention, attention should be paid under both federal civil rights laws and state law.
Where representatives of the subject of any such request for clarification expressly invites a "backlash" against citizens who exercise their rights to file such requests for clarification, it seems that there should be some consideration of whether other Alaska laws apply.
Under Alaska Statutes 11.56.510, interference with official proceedings is a class B felony:
"(a) A person commits the crime of interference with official proceedings if the person
(1) uses force on anyone, damages the property of anyone, or threatens anyone with intent to
(A) improperly influence a witness or otherwise influence the testimony of a witness;
(B) influence a juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action as a juror;
(C) retaliate against a witness or juror because of participation by the witness or juror in an official proceeding; or (D) otherwise affect the outcome of an official proceeding; or
(2) confers, offers to confer, or agrees to confer a benefit
(A) upon a witness with intent to improperly influence that witness; or
(B) upon a juror with intent to influence the juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action as a juror or otherwise affect the outcome of an official proceeding."
I have emphasized the relevant bits of the statutes that apply in this case and it appears the website presents the purpose of the trust fund as one thing while the trust fund agreement presents a very different one, thus at least arguably leading people to part with money, services or property under false pretenses.
The purpose of the fund, as stated on the website, together with several press releases from the governor's office, her twits, etc, may infringe the civil rights of the citizens of Alaska both under state law and federal law.
This post was possible thanks to invaluable input from a criminal prosecutor. Thanks SG, we owe you!