The woman an incarcerated man called the “love of his life” was also a Juneau Police Department informant, proof that police were conspiring to take him down for crimes he didn’t commit, he claimed in court Wednesday.
“This was, in fact, part of the plot,” defendant Laron Carlton Graham, 38, said excitedly during a round of questions he fired at JPD Detective Sterling Salisbury, who sat on the witness stand.
Police arrested Graham on March 17 after he allegedly threatened his girlfriend’s life, assaulted her and stole a vehicle. All of this allegedly happened while at a Gruening Park apartment he wasn’t supposed to visit because of a no-trespass notice Salisbury served Graham in March.
But Graham — who is representing himself at trial — asserted in court that JPD coerced the apartment manager to file that notice, then coerced a vehicle owner to press charges for vehicle theft — all so that police could detain him for a murder investigation in which he’s a suspect.
Murder is not among the four felonies Graham is facing trial for — those are assault, robbery, theft and tampering with a witness’ testimony. Then there are the 10 misdemeanors, among which are assault and criminal trespassing.
What murder Graham is talking about exactly remains unclear. The only open murder investigation from last year in Juneau is a November double homicide in Douglas. Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp attempted several times at trial to block Graham from asking Salisbury directly about the murder investigation because it is still “very much active.” She also did not confirm in interviews with the Empire which murder investigation Graham is referring to.
Kemp insisted that Graham’s questions about informants and a murder investigation are just him “fishing” for a distraction unrelated to the real issue: he allegedly threatened to throw a woman out of her top floor apartment in front of her child.
Judge Philip Pallenberg, who exhibited a lot of patience with the defendant’s lack of knowledge about court proceedings, didn’t side with Kemp about keeping the murder investigation off the table.
“It seems to me that I can only exclude this if I’m going to exclude his entire defense,” Pallenberg said.
Instead, Pallenberg allowed Graham to practice his cross-examination of Salisbury while the jury was gone to ensure he stayed on track. Graham tended to drift during the day into speeches about conspiracies rather than asking direct questions of witnesses. He did eventually ask a yes/no question to Salisbury.
“Are you aware of the fact that (the victim) that stay … at Gruening Park apartment, that she was in fact an informant for JPD?”
“Yes,” Salisbury said.
Graham then asked Salisbury if he knew of the defendant (Graham) before the alleged assault because he was part of a “hot topic” investigation. Salisbury said yes.
Kelli Menze, an office assistant for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation which manages the Gruening Park apartments, was called by the state to give testimony Wednesday. Menze said she was inside the Gruening Park manager’s office on March 17 when the victim came running inside without shoes on and holding a baby, crying for help.
“She looked like she was running … scared out of her mind, fleeing to get away from whatever she was running from,” Menze told Kemp as she recalled the events from that day. “… She looked cold and scared.”
During cross-examination, Graham asked Menze if she knew about a larger police operation to bring him down.
“Did JPD present a request to Gruening Park office manger to in fact ask the Mr. Graham, black male to produce … ID to your office?” Graham asked Menze.
She said she only asked for Graham’s ID in November because it is required for all long-term guests. She later said that apartment management was aware of possible drug activity in the victim’s apartment and management was trying to learn more.
Officer Kirt Stage-Harvey and arresting Officer Terry Allen also took the stand Wednesday. Stage-Harvey spoke mainly about the victim’s emotional state after the alleged attack and confirmed that the victim had an informant relationship with JPD Detective Matt DuBois.
Allen is expected to return to the stand Wednesday to address a note found on Graham during his arrest. When Gruening Park manager Tamara Rowcroft and the victim will take the stand was not made clear by day’s end.
Graham left the courtroom chatting with attorney Nicholas Polasky, one of three attorneys who previously represented Graham. Graham said he might take Polasky on to help him with his case.
• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or email@example.com.