Policy: Law

Begich ad faults Sullivan for sexual assault of two-year-old

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Photo - A screenshot from the ad by Sen. Mark Begich's campaign targeting his Republican challenger, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan.
A screenshot from the ad by Sen. Mark Begich's campaign targeting his Republican challenger, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan.
Politics,Crime,Betsy Woodruff,Alaska,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Law,Advertising,Mark Begich,Dan Sullivan

The Republican opponent of Sen. Mark Begich has demanded that he take down a TV ad that highlights the death of an elderly couple and the sexual assault of their two-year-old granddaughter.

The ad, which Begich has released in one of the most competitive Senate races in the nation this fall, faults former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan for the early release of registered sex offender Jerry A. Active.

Republican Dan Sullivan's campaign pushed back, charging that Begich “has no shame.”

“He is lying to Alaskans and using the murder of an elderly couple and the sexual assault of a two-year-old for his own political gain, and it’s despicable,” Sullivan said in a statement.

Active, now 25, last year broke into the Anchorage home of Cambodian-American couple Touch Chea, 71, and his wife Sorn Sreap, 73, who were babysitting their granddaughter. Authorities said both grandparents were beaten to death, and the little girl was sexually assaulted, as was Sreap's 91-year-old mother, Sreap Yan, the Associated Press has reported. Yan, who had dementia, died of a stroke weeks later.

The Cheas' son and daughter-in-law came home from the movies just in time to find Active still in the home. After fighting with the son, he ran out the door in his boxer underwear, and was arrested a block away, Anchorage authorities told the local press.

Begich (AP)
Active has been charged with murder and sexual assault in the case. Public outrage prompted incumbent state Attorney General Michael Geraghty to acknowledge "that prosecutors, corrections officials and a sentencing judge erred in assessing Active's criminal history," the AP reported last year.

The Sullivan campaign has produced a timeline saying that the error that resulted in Active’s early release happened before Sullivan became attorney general in June 2009: A felony conviction Active received in 2007 was never placed in the state's criminal history database, Geraghty has said.

The mistake could have prevented the attack on the Chea family. The omission from the database in 2007 led to a faulty plea deal for Active in 2010 that should have kept him in prison until at least 2018.

Sullivan (AP)
The Begich campaign charges that, as Active received the faulty plea deal in March 2010, while Sullivan was attorney general, Sullivan deserves blame. The Begich campaign has posted online an image of the plea document bearing Sullivan's signature.

In the plea deal, Active had sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl. He was initially charged with offenses including second-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Jerry A. Active (photo via Alaska Public Radio)
Had court officials been aware when they inked the plea deal of Active's 2007 felony conviction, he would have been required to have been sentenced to at least eight years in prison, which would have kept him behind bars at the time of the Chea killings.

Instead, Active wound up pleading guilty to attempted sexual abuse of a minor and two misdemeanors, according to the state attorney general's office's website, and his sentence fell in the two-to-10-year range. He got out of prison on May 25, 2013, and hours later, he broke into the Chea home in the Mountain View neighborhood in north Anchorage, near Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Cori Milles, an assistant DA and spokeswoman for the state Department of Law, told Alaska political blogger Amanda Coyne that it “is unreasonable to suggest that any attorney general reviews each pleading filed in court for the state; he or she relies on experienced prosecutors to file these documents.”

Begich didn’t respond to local media’s request for comment.

Editor's note: The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault, but it identified the victims in this case as relatives of the Chea family have spoken out publicly to the press.

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Betsy Woodruff

Political Writer
The Washington Examiner

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