Attorneys grow impatient in Sockeye Fire trial

It is almost one year since the Sockeye fire in Willow devastated over 7,000 acres of Southcentral Alaska and torched 55 homes.

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The Sockeye Fire which devastated Willow in 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough)
The Sockeye Fire which devastated Willow in 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough)

Fire investigators pinned the cause of the fire on two Anchorage residents, Greg Imig and Amy DeWitt, charging they had left a burning debris pile unattended on Imig’s Willow property. The state is prosecuting the two, charging them with several counts, all misdemeanors.

In a series of pre-trial hearings, starting last July and running through the early months of this year, attorneys for Imig and DeWitt asked the court for more time for discovery.

But state attorneys are getting impatient for the case to go to trial. Roman Kalytiak, is Palmer’s district attorney.

“Usually a district court case doesn’t take a year to get to trial,” Kalytiak said. “So at this next pre-trial conference we are going to ask the court for a trial date, and carve out some trial time for us, because this is going to take a little bit longer than a normal misdemeanor case.”

Kalytiak said the case is not close to resolution and is complicated for a number of reasons, because of the substantial damages involved. Many of the fire victims lost their homes entirely, and suppressing the fire cost more than $8 million, according to fire officials.

Another complication, Kalytiak says, is that the current presiding judge in the case will be moving to another position, and it is uncertain which new judge will be assigned to the Sockeye case.

“In my mind, if we get a trail date that is pretty certain, if there are any offers to be made by the defense, or any resolutions to be had, that the parties tend get more serious if they are looking at a trial date.”

Kalytiak said he’d like to get the case finished by the end of this summer. He says it will take about two weeks for the state to present it’s case at trial.

Another pre-trial hearing is set for Friday in Palmer.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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