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Commercial fishing couple sentenced to year in prison for tax evasion

One drug dealer sentenced, another pleads guilty in separate cases

A Southeast Alaska husband and wife were sentenced to a year in federal prison for not paying their income taxes.

Archie Demmert, 58, and his wife Roseann, 61, pleaded guilty in May to two charges of tax evasion. According to their plea agreement, they did not pay taxes in 2006-2009 and 2011-2014 that added up to a total of more than $336,000.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess sentenced the Demmerts to pay more than $145,000 in restitution to go along with their year in prison. Burgess said he was hesitant at first to accept the plea deal, because the Demmerts have a lengthy history of not paying their taxes that dates back to 1994.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward responded to Burgess saying the only charges filed in this case are for 2011-2014, and that the statute of limitations has run out for most of the Demmerts’ violations.

The two make their living commercial fishing, based in Klawock.

“They just flat-out decided they don’t have to pay. They don’t have to pay taxes that everybody else has to pay,” Burgess said in court. “What’s particularly mind-boggling to me is the industry they make their livelihood in, which is about as dependent on the government as about any industry I can think of.”

Burgess pointed out that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keeps people informed about the weather, the U.S. Coast Guard keeps people safe on the water and the National Marine Fisheries Service manages and conserves fisheries around the country. He pointed out that taxpayers pay for all of this, and that the Demmerts seem to think they’re above paying for the services they use.

Roseann said in court that she and her husband sought advice from financial advisors and banks to try and pay their taxes or reach some kind of compromise to pay back the money they owe. They received some poor advice, she acknowledged, and they didn’t have any luck getting banks to work with them. She also said they’ve had family members struggle with substance abuse and they’ve done what they can to support them and take in other family members who have been affected.

Kevin Higgins, who was representing Archie, said the court could sentence the couple to a shorter prison sentence in order to get them out in time for fishing season next spring so they can get to earning money to pay their restitution sooner. He also said that just the fact that the Demmerts would go to prison would be enough to deter others from not paying taxes.

“What people will remember is that the Demmerts got convicted and they had to serve a sentence,” Higgins said.

Steward disagreed.

“I would note that if people can blatantly not pay taxes for 15 years and not serve significant jail time, that’s actually an incentive to not pay your taxes, not a deterrent,” Steward said.

Burgess ultimately decided to side with the prosecution.

Convicted drug dealer sentenced

A man who moved to Alaska to get closer with his father ended up getting caught selling methamphetamine with his father, and was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Ricky Stapler Lisk was arrested in October 2017 along with his father Charles E. Cotten for distributing meth in Juneau, and pleaded guilty to a charge of drug distribution earlier this year. Almost a year after his arrest, Lisk was sentenced and is heading back to his home state of Arkansas to serve his time.

Lisk’s lawyer David A. Nesbett said in court Friday that this is by far the most severe crime in Lisk’s life and that he’s optimistic about Lisk’s chances once he gets back to where most of his friends and family are.

“He wants to go back home,” Nesbett said. “He wants to go back to Arkansas. He wants to leave this place entirely, and I think he has a really great chance of re-establishing his life down there and his job and his prospects and making money and living a law-abiding life.”

Nesbett said in court that Lisk came up here to grow closer to his father, Cotten.

According to an indictment filed by a grand jury in October 2017, Cotten, 52, distributed meth on four occasions between May 12 and June 7 of this year. Lisk was accused of distributing alongside Cotten on one of those occasions, June 2.

Cotten, who pleaded guilty in April to four charges of meth distribution, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16, according to electronic court records.

Sitka man pleads guilty to drug charge

Aaron Keith Didrickson, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to one charge of drug conspiracy for aiding in a Sitka drug ring. Didrickson was one of seven people indicted this May for possessing and distributing heroin and meth in Sitka. Eric Stephen Morisky, also known as “Curly,” was the only Juneau resident indicted.

Didrickson assisted the leaders in the drug ring by driving them around and collecting drug debts owed from other co-conspirators during the course of the conspiracy, according to the plea agreement. Didrickson faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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