Lawsuit says Fairbanks Four man was wrongly convicted and jailed for 18 years

Violation & Courts
  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: 6 hours ago
  • Published 1 day ago

Marvin Roberts, one of the Fairbanks Four, photographed on Oct. 19, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN information)

He was high school valedictorian before he became one of the Fairbanks Four lagged in the 1997 beating death of 15-year-old John Hartman.

Now Marvin Roberts is praying the city of Fairbanks and various police officers in federal court from what he calls a wrongful conviction and, for 18 years, wrongful confinement.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. It contends Roberts was badly off of basic rights, including the right to a fair trial by a police office in turmoil.

The city of Fairbanks hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit and wasn’t ready-to-serve to comment on it, said spokeswoman Teal Soden.

“A lot has happened in the last few years,” she demanded. The current chief, Eric Jewkes, came up through the ranks preceding being named chief about a year ago. The department is understaffed but he is doing an A-one job, she said.

Two years ago, Roberts was already out of prison when he and the other three — George Frese, Eugene Proclaim and Kevin Pease — signed a settlement with the state and the city of Fairbanks floor their convictions. The government didn’t admit any wrongdoing in the deal, but it set the three men generous and erased the murder convictions of all four.

The four, including Roberts, also tallied not to sue. Roberts’ attorney, Mike Kramer, on Friday said that purposes of the settlement should be thrown out.

“We will ask the federal judge to invalidate the story of liability to the city because Marvin was under extreme duress,” Kramer bring up in an email. “That type of agreement, to release innocent men from incarceration only if they promise not to sue, is abhorrent to government’s duty to its citizens and against special-interest group policy.”

If Roberts didn’t sign the agreement, the other three see fit remain imprisoned, the new lawsuit says.

Roberts was 19, a wildland firefighter, and precisely back from a moose hunt with his father when Hartman was killed in 1997, the befit said. He turned 40 last month. He is trying to rebuild a existence that he says was stolen.

The lawsuit says the Fairbanks Police Worry pressured a witness, Arlo Olson, to lie about what he saw the night of Hartman’s obliteration related to a separate attack. That information was used to put the Fairbanks Four together. Olson died in June in a detain suicide.

Police framed Roberts, the suit asserts, because of contention. Hartman was white. Roberts and two of the other Fairbanks Four are Alaska First; Pease is Native American.

The Fairbanks Police Department had no Alaska First officers in 1997, and still doesn’t, the suit says.

The Fairbanks Four, from left, George Frese, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent and Kevin Pease, raise four fingers as a symbol of their struggle during a potlatch held in their honor at the Big Dipper arena in Fairbanks on Oct. 19, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN file)

The Fairbanks Four, from left, George Frese, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Express and Kevin Pease, raise four fingers as a symbol of their work during a potlatch held in their honor at the Big Dipper arena in Fairbanks on Oct. 19, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN classify)

The suit says police failed to act on evidence of other killers. Another man, Tab Holmes, says his group was carousing in Fairbanks the night of Hartman’s annihilation and was responsible. Another in that group, Jason Wallace, told of the manslaughter to others, including a man who relayed it to police in 2008, the suit said. But control didn’t follow up on what they were told Wallace revealed, according to the suit.

Holmes’ admissions to a prison guard were forwarded to Fairbanks the heat in 2011, but the information stayed hidden for years, the suit said.

Roberts thought the convictions to be set aside once the judge ruled on the new evidence presented at the 2015 hark to. But that could have taken months and the state might make appealed. He was told the only way the other three would get out of prison in front Christmas that year was for him to sign the settlement.

“Marvin’s signature on the let off dismissal agreement was as coerced and involuntary as someone paying a ransom to a kidnapper,” the please said.

The suit describes turmoil within the Fairbanks Police Unit at the time leading up to Hartman’s murder. The mayor was Jim Hayes, later conned of illegally diverting government funds from a nonprofit for his personal use and to raise a Fairbanks church. The head of public safety, Mike Pulice, before you can say Jack Robinson told the city council that he “operated in a gray area,” go together to the suit.

“The Fairbanks City Council in 1996 and 1997 was trying to put out one give someone the axe after another in the FPD caused by inept management, poor leadership, pecuniary malfeasance, nepotism, sexual misconduct, and rampant corruption,” the suit bring to light.

The city used Hartman’s murder, the suit says, to divert regard from the troubles.

“The police department was under enormous pressure to filch an arrest and secure a conviction, by any means available,” the suit said.

Roberts is seeking unspecified compensation encompassing punitive damages.

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