Alaska state Sen. David Wilson, a Republican from Wasilla, addresses reporters Dec. 7 in Anchorage. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

Alaska will not prosecute state senator who slapped a reporter

The state of Alaska will not prosecute Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, for slapping an Anchorage Daily News reporter in May.

In a Tuesday letter to the Juneau Police Department, Chief Assistant Attorney General Andrew Peterson wrote: “Based on my review of the investigation, it is unlikely that the state will be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Senator Wilson acted with the specific intent to harass or annoy Mr. Herz when he slapped Mr. Herz on May 2, 2017.”

Nat Herz, the Anchorage Daily News reporter in question, had stopped Wilson in the Capitol stairwell to follow up on a story published two days before. When Herz asked whether Wilson thought the story was reasonable and fair, Wilson responded by slapping Herz.

The encounter was captured by Herz in an audio recording. In the recording, Herz responds to the slap with incredulity, asking if Wilson was serious or trying to be playful.

Wilson subsequently said he intended the slap to be playful, but Herz subsequently filed a report with the Juneau Police Department.

“I still think that reporting it was the right thing to do,” Herz said by phone on Tuesday.

Not long after the slap, Wilson was involved in a separate incident involving a House staffer and a cellphone. An internal Legislative investigation, whose results were released Tuesday, concluded Wilson did not sexually harass the staffer.

The slapping case was forwarded to the state’s Office of Special Prosecutions at the end of May. City prosecutors normally handle misdemeanors in Juneau, but the Office of Special Prosecutions asked to take it on. That office handles particularly challenging or sensitive cases at the Department of Law. Investigations into police-involved shootings, for example, are the domain of that office.

When the case arrived at prosecutors’ desks, the Juneau Police Department said it was examining it as a matter of harassment. Under state law, second-degree harassment requires an action and “a showing that the offender acted with the specific intent to harass or annoy.”

Seven months after the case was sent to the Office of Special Prosecutions, Peterson concluded that the available evidence was unlikely to prove that intent.

“This in no (way) implies that Senator Wilson’s conduct is not of concern, but rather that the resources necessary for this prosecution (are) disproportionate to the conduct, especially since the Legislature has the authority to address this conduct through other means,” Peterson wrote.

Peterson did not respond by press time when asked why the decision took seven months.

When asked for comment Tuesday, Wilson told the Empire he’s glad things are settled.

“I don’t think the encounter was a malicious encounter that we had,” Wilson said by phone.

“I hope that he would agree that wasn’t my intent,” Wilson said of Herz. “I hope that this will allow him to do his reporting uninhibited.”

Herz said he still doesn’t know what the intent was behind the slap, but he sees the matter as settled regardless.

“I don’t have any issues anymore,” he said. “I don’t have any issues working with him.”

Wilson said he’d like the put the matter behind him. The next legislative session starts Jan. 16.

“I’m just glad that the matter is hopefully to a rest so we can get on to the important issues of the state,” he said.

At the time of the incident, Anchorage Daily News Editor David Hulen said in an article published by the paper, “We support our reporter. It’s not OK for a legislator to strike anyone.”

DV.load(“”, {
responsive: true,
height: 700,
container: “#DV-viewer-4327058-Slap”

Slap (PDF)

Slap (Text)

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

More in News

Alaska governor vows to fix ‘loophole’ in sex crime laws

Gov. Bill Walker is responding to public outrage over the recent sentencing… Continue reading

A damaged vehicle is pulled away by a tow truck after an afternoon car crash at the Fred Meyer intersection on Friday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Car crash injures two at Fred Meyer intersection

A car crash at Fred Meyer intersection sent a woman to the… Continue reading

Feds sentence Southeast drug conspirators

Co-conspirators in multiple drug cases were sentenced in federal court this week.

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew medevacs a patient from Wrangell to Sitka, Alaska, July 17, 2018. (Courtesy photo | Stephen Prysunka)
Coast Guard suspends search for missing Kake man

The U.S. Coast Guard announced that it has suspended search efforts for a 55-year-old Kake man who might have fallen off a pier.

Issues of affordability, public safety prominent in candidates’ minds

A busy week of candidate forums culminated in the annual League of Women Voters candidate forum on Thursday.

Allison Holtkamp and Donnie Gott smile as a storyteller arrives to rehearsal for “Same: Local Stories of Gender-Based Violence.” Holtkamp, director and producer of the show, and Holtkamp, storyteller and sound designer, said despite the show’s heavy topic, the experience of sharing stories is empowering and every story contains some levity.	(Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)
New show brings gender-based violence stories to the stage

“Same” will be different. The show, which is subtitled “Local stories of… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support the Juneau Access Project during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Economic-minded candidates talk future of business in Juneau

At Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Assembly candidates were probed about… Continue reading

Ron Flint takes a ride on the completed lower section of a mountain bike trail at the Eaglecrest Ski Area August 2015. Volunteers with the Juneau Freewheelers Cycle Club and Eaglecrest staff worked on the downhill trail. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Eaglecrest to explore mountain bike course, install new snowmaking

A mountain bike course might be in the works for Eaglecrest Ski… Continue reading

Passengers board an Alaska Airlines jet at the Juneau International Airport in December 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
Passenger elbows window after plane lands in Juneau

A man elbowed and damaged a window on an Alaska Airlines flight that had just landed in Juneau on Thursday.

Most Read