Masek excuses sound hollow, sentence disappoints
By Julia O'Malley
The five-time elected member of the Alaska House of Representatives took a bribe in 2003 from Veco Corp. chief executive Bill Allen because she was depressed and going through a divorce, her attorney, Rich Curtner, explained to the judge. She was cash-strapped and desperate and drinking too much. The defense sentencing document--built on letters from public figures and a psychiatric evaluation--painted a picture of her that seemed fragile, like a besotted Victorian heroine wandering the halls of the capitol.
Masek was vulnerable and prone to relationships with domineering people, it said, a passive, dependent personality. She was unsophisticated and from a village, childlike, overwhelmed and adrift in Juneau when she had no one to tell her what to do. She was powerless to the pull of the Legislature's culture of corruption. Not to mention she had a habit of drinking too much. Reading all that, one might have expected her to faint right there in the courtroom. But instead she just sniffled, dabbing her eyes with a wadded Kleenex.
Masek was looking at 18 to 24 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But she didn't want to go to jail, her lawyer told the judge. She wanted to go to alcohol treatment.
In my seat in the front row, I was unmoved. Masek navigated the Iditarod Trail four times. Did she really have such a hard time, no matter how stressed or broke or hung-over she might have been, navigating the difference between right and wrong in Juneau? She had taken the oath of office five times, and been in the Legislature nearly 10 years when she deposited Allen's money in her bank account. The defense was reaching for heart-strings, playing a cloying victim tune. But it relied on a musty stereotype about Native women I don't buy. Masek was no naive village girl. She was an adult and an elected official. It seemed reasonable, even if she had an alcohol problem, that she should be expected to act like one.
Judge shows leniency in Masek sentence for corruption
Corruption: Former state representative must serve 3 years' probation after prison.
By Richard Mauer
"I know I have done things I should not have done. I know I need help. I'm ready to get back on track and get off this cliff that I fell off of," she said.
In a sentencing memo filed on behalf of Masek, Curtner said Masek accepted responsibility for her actions, but also blamed her ex-husband for being controlling and abusive and the environment in Juneau for depressing and confusing her.
Then there's this:
Beistline, from the bench, acknowledged that Masek may have been a "pawn in the hands of several legislators (and) her husband," but it didn't excuse her conduct. He said the idea that a legislator incapable of acting on her own and frequently drunk was "kind of scary, when you think about it."
Beistline said he was hopeful Masek could conquer her alcohol problems and become a useful member of society. But he also expressed skepticism because she hadn't gotten treatment despite her heavy drinking over the last decade and a driving while intoxicated charge. Under court supervision since her guilty plea in March, she's still been drinking to excess, the judge said.
For more on the subject, see How Alaskan Natives Get Drunk.