Tuesday, January 13, 2009

KTUU Poll Shows 58 Percent Of Respondents Believe Alaska STAR Lottery Winner And Sex Offender Alec Ahsoak Should Be Allowed To Keep His Winnings

Update late January 13th: Alec Ahsoak physically attacked by unidentified assailant at Fifth Avenue Mall in Anchorage. Ahsoak hospitalized with serious but non-life threatening injuries. Vigilantiism suspected. Updated post HERE.

The news that a registered sex offender won the $500,000 Alaska Lottery for Standing Together Against Rape (STAR), as discussed in this previous post, has generated considerable controversy state-wide and uncovered an undercurrent of pedophilia hysteria in the state. Even CNN has now picked up the story. However, by a narrow margin, Alaskans still cling to the fundamental belief that once a man has discharged his debt to society, he should be allowed to keep the fruits of his labors.

According to a KTUU Channel 2 "unscientific" poll taken on January 12th, 2008, 58 percent of respondents believe that Alec Ahsoak should be allowed to keep the $500,000 ($350,000 after taxes) he won from the recent lottery designed to raise money for STAR. Since it was a privately-run lottery, the state cannot compel Ahsoak to give up his winnings.

But Alaskans are sharply divided over this question. Discussion became so volatile that the Anchorage Daily News disabled public comments to all stories published on this issue. A January 10th KTUU story contains some comments reflecting Alaskan opinion. Many of those who want Ahsoak to give up his winnings believe he owes compensation to his victims, even though he was not sentenced to pay restitution. Ahsoak has already publicly pledged to donate $100,000 of his winnings to STAR, and on KTUU's January 12th broadcast, hinted at other possible donations.

One of those who want Ahsoak to pay compensation to his victims is the father of two of them, Rev. Bob Martin. Rev. Martin says Ahsoak sexually assaulted his two daughters, who were 4 and 5 at the time of the first assaults in 1993. Martin says he first met Ahsoak in Bible college in 1984, and about 10 years later Martin opened his home to Ahsoak. In return, Ahsoak helped out by babysitting Martin's two young daughters. But the girls later confided in their aunt that Ahsoak was sexually abusing them. Ahsoak was arrested, convicted and served four years. And after Ahsoak was arrested, he admitted to Rev. Martin that he had done this many times before and never got caught.

The third victim, now an Anchorage resident in her 20s, was more conflicted and ambivalent. She described seeing Alec Ahsoak win the money as feeling like a slap in the face, considering the lottery is meant to benefit STAR. "It's not to me to say he can't have the money. Or anybody can't really take that money from him, it's just hard to see," she said. In March 2000, police arrested Ahsoak for molesting this third victim. Initially charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and failing to register as a sex offender, he pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual abuse, and prosecutors dropped the other charges. He served six years and is currently on probation.

For their part, STAR issued a statement in which they said it wasn't about the winner of the lottery, but about the cause. After providing some statistics about the number of enquiries fielded over the weekend, they thanked all who bought tickets. STAR is expected to receive between $2,000 and $20,000 once expenses are determined.

Perhaps the reason STAR seemed nonjudgmental towards Alec Ahsoak is because they learned of his own troubled past, addressed in this separate KTUU story. Apparently Ahsoak was orphaned at the age of four, and grew up in the Jesse Lee Home for Children in Seward, eventually bouncing through foster care and suffering childhood abuse. By 17 he was an alcoholic. He passed 12th grade and was in special education classes. He spent four years in the Army and attended Bible school. By age 38 he was living with friends.

In the first case, the judge opined that Ahsoak did not appear to understand the sexuality involved, or the gravity of what he did. In the second case, detectives suggested that Ahsoak had problems relating to adult women, and turned his affection to children as a substitute.

What's disturbing is that a number of people simply want to either throw these offenders in prison for the rest of their lives, regardless of the cost in tax dollars, or, if they are released, consign them to the margins of society without regard for whether or not they have a home or job. In Florida, some sex offenders sleep under bridges because residency codes are overly restrictive. Many citizens accept the scientific mantra that sex offenders can never be cured, even though a study by the Alaska Judicial Center entitled "Criminal Recidivism In Alaska", published in 2007, showed that sex offenders in Alaska only have a 39 percent recidivism rate. This indicates that although sex offenders may never recover, they don't all necessarily re-offend.

Pedophilia hysteria is starting to scare normal men away from kids. In the United Kingdom, one truck driver refused to stop to help a girl who was wandering on the road lost for fear he'd be considered a pedophile; the girl was later found face down in a pool. A priest in New Britain, CT was falsely accused of improper touching of a young girl after he grabbed her to prevent her from falling. And in November 2007, a false child molestation report brought an APD response in force to Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant here in Anchorage because an overwrought mother couldn't distinguish between soap and semen.

Depriving Alec Ahsoak of his lottery winnings would merely condemn him to a continued marginal existence, possibly at taxpayer expense, and further fuel the raging Salem witch-hunt mentality against sex offenders. If they actively seek help, they deserve a chance to succeed. If they don't want to seek help, then bury them.

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