State of Alaska v. Meghan Simon, Part 2
This is the second of a three part post on WC’s long adventure with the Alaska criminal justice system in State of Alaska v. Meghan Simon. It’s a story with an ugly beginning, very serious crimes, protracted delay and no closure. It’s also a serious criticism of the system.
Dealing With Authority
WC’s brother arrived from California that night, and early the next morning WC went to the credit union where their mother had her checking account. They were quite helpful, perhaps more helpful than the law really allowed, and provided copies of account statements and checks since Simon had been hired.
And it was pretty bad. There were at least 25 forged checks, in amounts ranging from $100 to $800, totaling more than $5,000. And the forgeries were patent: obviously different handwriting, misspelled first name; misspelled last name. The pattern of spending changed dramatically, too. For the years before, monthly spending was regular and predictable. The forged checks really stood out in terms of money removed from the account.
So on March 26, 2009, WC and WC’s brother filed a complaint with the City of Fairbanks Police Department. The complaint included a narrative, copies of all the forged checks, samples of the real signature and everything WC knew about Meghan Simon.
WC and WC’s brother also paid a painful visit to the credit union, and had a long conversation with the credit union president about forgeries, signatures and due diligence. The credit union was scrupulously fair, and paid all of the items for which it was liable, amounting to just less than half.
The City Police passed the case around like a hot potato. We had four different officers on the file. And nothing had happened. Nothing continue to happen for quite a while. It seemed to WC that Simon was an obvious flight risk. But in late May 2009, two months after the case had been brought to them, WC was contacted by a City Police officer. WC met with the officer to review his recommendations: he proposed to send 19 of the forgeries to the District Attorney as felonies.
The police officer cautioned me it might take a while for the District Attorney to respond. He was right. It took nine months.
After several false starts and date changes, WC was called to testify before the grand jury on February 25, 2010. After about ten minutes of deliberation, the grand jury returned a true bill on all 20 counts placed before them: 19 counts of forgery and one count of theft. For reasons WC has never understood, Simon wasn’t arraigned until March 22, 2010. Just short of the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Trial was set for May 31, 2010.
Except trial was continued. Again and again and again. Six times. Once because the Assistant District Attorney ignored the note on his file and set the trial for a week WC was scheduled to be in Panama. Most recently it was continued from February 21, 2011 to March 29, 2011.
In none of the continuances was WC given any explanation why the case was continued.
With one exception, WC learned of each continuance from someone other than the person who was supposed to tell him. There’s an employee in the Department of Law, a “Victim/Witness Paralegal II,” who is supposed to keep the victims and witnesses apprised of the case. That didn’t happen.
WC learned about continuances from Ass’t Public Defenders, while standing in line to buy coffee; after the P.D.s withdrew, from Office of Public Advocacy attorneys riding in the elevator. Or by going to the court system website to find out what the heck was going on. The “Victim/Witness Paralegal II” called WC only two times; both in response to telephone messages. She emailed WC a couple of times, but each time WC already knew. In one case, the email was sent two days after trial was supposed to have started. A letter was sent 22 days after trial was continued.
The single exception was news on February 16, 2011, an email from the “Victim/Witness Paralegal II” notifying WC that over “the strenuous objections of the prosecutor,” trial had been continued to March 26. Of course, that was an error, March 26 was a Saturday. She meant March 28. Oops, that was an error too, that’s a court holiday. She really meant March 29. As WC’s readers may recall, WC was in Ecuador at the time, so the email hardly mattered.
And so it was, WC emailed his “Victim/Witness Paralegal II” on Friday morning, March 25, 2011 to find out what had happened at the pretrial hearing on March 24. The email bounced back with a note the employee was out of the office until March 31.
So WC went on-line and checked the Courtview calendar. And that’s how WC found out there would be a change of plea and sentencing in 40 minutes. Two years and two days after her death. Without any notice to WC.
WC put on a tie, a sports coat and headed over the Superior Judge Paul Lyle’s courtroom.
Concluded in Part 3