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Report: Wiretaps netted four murder indictments in 2017

Police and prosecutors conducted four wiretaps in Alaska last year, work that resulted in the indictments of multiple people for murder, a new state report indicates.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Department of Law released its annual report on court-approved wiretaps in the 49th state. The report identified four state wiretaps, two by Alaska State Troopers and two by the Fairbanks Police Department.

The four taps conducted in 2017 are the most authorized since the Alaska Legislature began permitting their state use in 1993. (The federal government has long allowed wiretaps to be conducted here, but only for cases in federal court.)

Limited information is available about the history of state-authorized wiretaps in Alaska; until the Juneau Empire published a story in January revealing the state’s failure to publish a legally required annual report on wiretaps, the state had not reported any information.

Since the story’s publication, the Department of Law has belatedly released reports on 2016 and 2015. Robert Henderson, head of the criminal division of the Department of Law, told the Empire by email that he does not believe any wiretaps were conducted before 2015.

Tuesday’s report indicates the two wiretaps requested by the Fairbanks Police Department were performed starting Feb. 24, 2017 and March 1, 2017. Each lasted two weeks.

Detective Avery Thompson, the policeman who requested the wiretaps, said he was unable to talk about the case connected to them but said it stemmed from a September 2016 incident.

In that month, a shootout at a Fairbanks nightclub killed or injured three people. Three people were arrested in connection with the crime before the end of the second wiretap.

David DeCoeur, the Alaska State Troopers investigator who requested the other two wiretaps of 2017, did not respond to phone calls or emails from the Juneau Empire, and a spokeswoman for the Troopers said they were unable to release more information about the case.

The report indicates his two wiretaps were approved May 15 and lasted 30 days apiece. They resulted in two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

Given the number of murders investigated by Alaska State Troopers during 2017, it was not possible to immediately identify which case employed the two wiretaps.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

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