In court Monday, a Juneau judge ruled that Haines’ Ted Hart had violated conditions of his probation in 2014. That decision allows State prosecutors to move forward with a petition to revoke probation, which in turn could lead to jail time for Hart. Hart was found not guilty of weapons’ charges in criminal court in November. On Monday, Hart was flanked by public defender Tim Ayer and supported in the room by nearly 20 members of his family and friends.
“I think this is all going to come to an end soon. And I feel good that the community support is going to make a big difference now.”
That was Hart after the proceeding.
“This has been really hard on me,” he said.
He was stoic in the courtroom. He kissed his baby, Adze, and got a kiss from his mother before the hearing started. The prosecution, assistant district attorney Amy Paige, started by interviewing Hart’s probation officer Sara Dallas about her visit to Hart’s residence in August, 2014. Dallas said she saw empty beer bottles in the residence. She said during that visit Hart admitted to consuming alcohol and marijuana, but the timeline of when exactly that happened wasn’t established. According to Dallas, Hart had also admitted to consuming alcohol and marijuana when she visited him in March, 2013.
That’s where Ayer, Hart’s defense attorney, focused his efforts. There was no record of Hart saying he drank those particular beers in 2014, just that he had consumed sometime while under supervision. And no urine or blood tests were done, ever. But the prosecution argued that those details don’t matter, because he admitted to drinking and consuming pot sometime while on probation, and there is no statute of limitations on probation violations.
Here’s Paige questioning probation officer Dallas:
“Could you still, although it was August 2014, at the time you contacted him at his home, could you still never the less file a petition for a March 2013 violation?”
“Do probation violations have an expiration date or any sort of statute of limitations that you’re aware of?”
“I don’t believe so.”
Paige also aimed to establish that Hart willfully violated his probation because there was a concealable firearm in the house where he lived.
Now, if you’re wondering why Hart is back in court after being found not guilty in November of a weapons charge related to this, you’re not alone. He was found not guilty in criminal court, but this is different. Ayer explains:
“This was going to happen anyway because the standards are different. In a criminal trial, it’s beyond reasonable doubt, in this proceeding it’s just a preponderance of the evidence, so it’s completely consistent that a jury can say ‘not guilty,’ and the judge say ‘but, even though it didn’t rise to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt, on this lower standard, yeah.’”
The judge ruled in favor of allowing the State to go forward with the petition to revoke probation, on both the claims of consuming alcohol and marijuana, and knowingly living in a dwelling with a concealable firearm. If probation is revoked, Hart will face jail time. The judge, district court judge Keith Levy said by phone from Juneau that the hard part now is deciding what the consequences should be.
Hart’s attorney said the worst-case scenario is that Hart goes to jail for months on end, but added that he doesn’t expect that to happen.
“The best case scenario is that there’s no jail time imposed, that he continues on probation to be able to show the court, his probation officer and the community that everything that we heard here today is true and is going to be continuing,” said Ayer. “Regardless of what mistakes he may have made in the past, he’s taken very huge steps to change that, to better himself, and to become a constructive and respected member of the community.”
Three people testified on Hart’s behalf Monday, with more hoping to speak at the hearing next month. Carver and mentor Wayne Price spoke first. Price talked about Hart’s recovery from alcohol and drugs, his dedication to his family, and his love of carving and his cultural heritage.
“I’m just so proud of Teddy, and if the court would see fit to recognize that this is what you want,” Price said. “This is what you want the people to do. Well, he’s doing it. I’m so grateful to be here and speak for him.”
Hart’s brother James also spoke about how Hart has changed his life and has positively affected the lives of people in the community.
“There was a time when I was worried about, you know, his lifestyle and lately I don’t have to worry about what he’s doing. He is living a clean and sober life.”
Ayer said that these community testaments really will make a difference.
“The community in this case is on Ted’s side so we take the community condemnation and say the community supports him, there is no condemnation for Ted right now. So that’s where this all plays in.”
Hart’s advocates who spoke in court on Monday said that this case has dragged on long enough and that Hart has turned his life around for the better. The next proceeding is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.