By Black Powder | Red Power Media, Staff
The Fairbanks Four released, under terms of a deal struck with the state.
According to various media reports, a judge in Alaska approved terms of a settlement Thursday that throws out the longstanding convictions of four indigenous men, — George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent— in the beating death of a teenager in Fairbanks.
Roberts was out on parole, but the other three were behind bars.
Judge Paul Lyle ordered the men be taken to the Fairbanks Correctional center to be immediately released. About 150 supporters had crowded the courthouse for the hearing, and many cheered inside the small courtroom cheers as Lyle exited for his chambers.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is reporting the Fairbanks Four are all free men, as the three who remained in state custody early Thursday left the Fairbanks Correctional Center shortly after 5 p.m.
- Inmate’s Confession Promises New Trials For Fairbanks Four, Roberts Paroled
- The Fairbanks Four Exoneration Case Now In The Hands Of Superior Court Judge
The settlement comes with several stipulations, including one preventing the four men from suing various governmental agencies for post-conviction relief. While the men will be considered innocent, they will not be able to seek monetary compensation for the 18 years spent behind bars.
Attorneys for the Fairbanks Four clarified that the men still maintain their innocence, and always had, but that they were willing to withdraw the legal claims as part of the deal.
Gov. Bill Walker released a statement saying he was pleased that the state and attorneys for the Fairbanks Four had reached a settlement that satisfied concerns from the court.
The four men were sentenced in 1997, for the fatal beating of 15-year-old John Hartman and had been behind bars ever since.
Alaska Native leaders have long advocated for their release, saying the convictions were racially motivated and emblematic of how Alaska Natives have been treated by the justice system.
Here are some of the main events in the case during the past two years.
September 2013 — Interior Alaska Native leaders and supporters of Frese, Pease, Roberts and Vent announce the new court case at a press conference in front of the Rabinowitz Courthouse in downtown Fairbanks. The filling includes an affidavit from Bill Holmes in support of the alternate suspect theory.
October 2013 — Two Alaska State Troopers from the cold case unit and prosecutor Adrianne Bachman travel to Fairbanks to begin investigating the claims made in the new lawsuit. They visit the crime scenes and records at the Fairbanks Police Department.
January 2014 — Cold case investigators discover that Fairbanks police were already aware of the Bill Holmes statement before the Alaska Innocence Project because California prison guard Joseph Torquato faxed a memo to the police about it in December, 2011. The petitioners have argued that the police’s failure to pass on this exculpatory information amounts to prosecutorial misconduct.
November 2014 — Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle holds a closed-door hearing about the testimony of Tom Bole, a former Public Defender Agency investigator who testified that Wallace told him in 2003 that he was involved in the Hartman murder. Lyle rules that Wallace’s attorney-client privilege shouldn’t keep the petitioners from using Bole’s testimony in this case.
May 2015 — Marvin Roberts is released on parole. His three co-petitioners remain in jail, serving sentences that range from 38 to 79 years.
October 2015 — A five week evidentiary hearing in this case takes place. The hearing ended Tuesday [Nov 10] with closing arguments.
December 2015 – Fairbanks Four freed [Dec 17] as judge accepts deal to throw out indictments, convictions