By Rick Smeriglio for Seward City News -
At about 8:00 pm on Tuesday the 15, a jury of 12 returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on all 12 counts against James T. Hubbard and Rhonda K. Anderson-Hubbard, who own J&R Fisheries and operate F/V Kruzof. On the most serious charge of attempted perjury, the jury could not agree that Mr. Hubbard’s actions satisfied all four conditions needed for a guilty verdict. On the misdemeanors of falsifying information on fish tickets, the jurors could not agree that the Hubbards intended to deceive anyone. State of Alaska has not announced whether it will pursue the matter further on appeal.
The morning after the verdict, Mrs. Hubbard said, “I’m heartened by the people [the jurors] who took the time for us.”
Hubbard said that after the verdict, one juror thanked the Hubbards for “fighting for us”. The jury deliberated for about 4 hours after spending about 7 days hearing witnesses and considering evidence. State of Alaska pays them $25 a day, but not for the first day.
Juror Bobby Dunno, a diesel instructor at Alaska Vocational Technical Center related some of the jury’s grappling with the charge of attempted perjury. According to Carol Holley, Assistant Attorney General in the State of Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions who prosecuted the case, the jury had to find that Mr. Hubbard did four things to have committed the crime. He had to have (one) knowingly made a sworn statement (two) that statement must be false (three) he had to know the statement was false and (four) he had to have taken a substantial step regarding the subject of the statements. In this case, Mr. Hubbard made statements about whether he bought fish from other licensed fishermen on his boat. Dunno said the jury thought that Hubbard made a true statement and must have regarded it as true.
When asked whether he thought the jury system worked in this case, Dunno said, “Yeah, I think so.”
Fish tickets (issued by fish buyers to fish sellers) lay at the core of this case. Dunno explained that the jury found the ticket coding system for various species and various dispositions, “fuzzy”. The tickets lacked a code for what the Hubbards wanted to do with some of the fish they landed. They wanted to sell some outright at the wholesale level and they wanted to keep some to sell through their retail business, J&R Fisheries. They had state-issued licenses to do both or either.
After a year of court proceeding before the trial, the Hubbards seemed ready to resume work. On Wednesday morning, the crew of F/V Kruzof had the boat out conducting oil spill drills and safety training.
Rhonda Hubbard seemed relieved when she said, “I’m trying to get back to marketing and selling fish.”