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Appeals court upholds conviction in 2001 trans-Alaska pipeline shooting

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Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 11:57 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Court of Appeals has upheld the 2002 conviction of Daniel Lewis, found guilty of state charges related to his shooting a hole in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline near Livengood in 2001.

Lewis also was convicted of a federal charge in connection with the shooting, which pierced the pipeline and caused 285,000 gallons of oil to spill from the line. An arc of oil sprayed from the line and proved difficult to control for several days. Cleanup costs totaled about $13 million.

The appellate judges rejected Lewis’ claim, filed in 2006, that he had received ineffective counsel from his attorney. He said his attorney should have defended against his state prosecution by arguing it was prohibited because the sentencing on the federal conviction was based on the same facts related to the pipeline shooting as the state charges. Lewis pointed to a state law as therefore barring his state prosecution.

Lewis was first convicted in 2002 in federal court of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was convicted in state court later that year on charges of first-degree criminal mischief, third-degree assault, felony driving while intoxicated, oil pollution and weapons misconduct and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The state and federal sentences are running concurrently.

The appeals court disagreed with Lewis’ appeal, saying the state prosecution was allowable based on previous court interpretations of the law Lewis was citing in his appeal.

“In cases construing this statute, we have analyzed the defendant’s conduct, the elements of the offenses in question, and the societal interests involved to determine if offenses in different jurisdictions are the same ‘act’ under this statute,” the judges wrote in their ruling in the Lewis case.

The appeals judges determined federal Judge John Sedwick “considered the entirety of Lewis’s misconduct when he determined the appropriate sentence for the federal charge. But this consideration did not convert the federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm into a prosecution for damaging an oil pipeline.”

Contact managing editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585.

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