Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage and Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, discuss a HB243, a measure that would allow felons whose convictions are overturned to be retroactively eligible for Permanent Fund Dividend checks on Tuesday.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage and Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, discuss a HB243, a measure that would allow felons whose convictions are overturned to be retroactively eligible for Permanent Fund Dividend checks on Tuesday.

Case inspires bill to allow yearly PFD checks for cleared felons

JUNEAU — State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow Alaskans who have had felony convictions overturned and charges later dismissed to become eligible for the yearly checks most Alaskans receive from the state’s oil wealth.

The measure, HB 242, was inspired by a group of indigenous men whose felony convictions for the 1997 death of a Fairbanks teenager were overturned with the caveat that they not sue government entities, according to its original sponsor.

“It brought the situation to my attention,” said Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage. “It’s about fairness. It’s about equality. The state screwed up, and the state needs to fix it.”

According to the bill, anyone who was ineligible to receive a Permanent Fund Dividend for any year because of a conviction is eligible to receive that dividend if the person’s criminal conviction is vacated or reversed and the charges on which the convictions were based are later dismissed, or the individual is retried and found not guilty.

During a meeting Tuesday of the House State Affairs committee, Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, questioned Department of Revenue employees about the potential financial effect on the Permanent Fund Divident if the bill were pass.

Sara Race, director of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division of the Department of Revenue, said 18 years’ worth of dividend checks would add up to a payment of just over $27,000 to each of the so-called Fairbanks Four.

Marvin Roberts, Kevin Pease, Eugene Vent and George Frese, also known as the Fairbanks Four, are the only defendants in Alaska to have had their convictions vacated and charges dismissed said Kaci Schroeder, assistant attorney general with the Department of Law’s criminal division, in a legislative research report. Cases in which defendants have had their convictions reversed and charges dismissed are also rare, according to the report.

The three Alaska Native Men and an American Indian had been convicted of second-degree murder, although they’ve maintained their innocence in the death of 15-year-old John Hartman.

Richard Allen, director of Alaska’s Office of Public Advocacy, testified in support of the bill during the hearing. Alaska is one of the few states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a compensation bill for criminals who are wrongfully incarcerated, he said.

“When we have a situation where Alaskans have been incarcerated inappropriately, it seems to me that the least we can do is given them back their dividends that they would have received had they not been in jail,” Allen said.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

Sniffen indicted on sexual abuse counts

Sniffen will be arraigned Monday.

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Oil price drop endangers plan to fund Alaska schools a year early

If oil prices fall, amount is automatically reduced to an amount the state can afford. At

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau Police Department announces technology and reporting updates

Emergeny services and direct reporting will not be interrupted

Most Read