Unalaska Teens Charged With Unspecified Crimes By State Division Of Juvenile Justice

Sep 10, 2018

Police with the Unalaska Department of Public Safety (pictured) are working the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice on the case. The handgun incident was first reported to adults on Aug. 23.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB

The state has filed charges against two Unalaska teenagers who allegedly threatened another teen with a handgun this July.

That's likely all the information Unalaskans will get about the case — unless it moves to the adult court system.

The rest of the details remain confidential under Alaska law.

Officials said they can't release the names of the minors or the charges against them, citing confidentiality policies that govern the state Division of Juvenile Justice.

"It can be a mystifying black box for the public," said Matt Davidson, a social services program officer at the division's headquarters in Juneau.

Davidson acknowledged that communities often want more information when it comes to kids and public safety. While that's understandable, he said, Alaska law protects the privacy of juvenile delinquency records for a reason.

"Children who commit criminal acts should have an opportunity to repair the harm they've done without a conviction on their permanent public record," he said. "So keeping their information privileged — that protects the youth from having something they did as a 12-year-old, for example, follow them throughout their whole life."

With that mission in mind, Davidson said most cases result in probation.

Judges work with families, schools, and social service providers to create plans aimed at addressing the needs of young offenders and preventing future crimes.

"Generally, there aren't a lot of jury trials," he said. "But they can happen."

Trials are reserved for serious offenses. In some cases, kids can end up in juvenile detention until they're 19.

Even more rarely, Davidson said some offenders are tried as adults, usually if they commit serious crimes past the age of 16.

"Those are crimes like murder, first-degree assault, and arson in the first degree," he said.

Cases moved to the adult system do become public.

For now, it's unclear where the Unalaska case fits on the spectrum of offenses or how long it'll take to move through the Juvenile Justice process.

Acting Public Safety Director Jennifer Shockley described the incident as "disturbing," but said the accused teenagers are currently out of custody on unspecified conditions of release.

Officials with the Unalaska City School District previously announced the teens had been placed on "homebound instruction" and were completing schoolwork from home. But Superintendent John Conwell said he can't comment further because student records are private under federal law.

Conwell said the earlier information was only released as an emergency exception to alleviate community fears of a threat against the school.