FAIRBANKS — Bail was set at $50,000 in the case of the 26-year-old Nulato man facing 12 criminal charges after authorities say he terrorized mushers and their teams, killing one dog, competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Arnold Demoski was operating a 2016 Ski-Doo 550F when he allegedly charged at and hit dog teams driven by Aliy Zirkle, of Two Rivers, and Jeff King, of Denali Park, early Saturday morning as they traveled between Koyukuk and Nulato in the best-known race involving Alaska’s state sport.
“If these allegations are proven to a jury,” Magistrate Romano DiBenedetto — a former prosecutor — said, “it could amount to be an act of terrorism. If the state had asked for $500,000, I probably would have granted it.”
Demoski appeared via teleconference in state court on Sunday. He is being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center. Attorney Bill Satterberg represented him, though Satterberg said he has not yet been retained. The lawyer declined to speak about the case.
These are the charges: two counts of felony third-degree assault, four counts of reckless endangerment and six counts of fifth-degree criminal mischief.
Satterberg asked DiBenedetto for several misdemeanor charges to be dropped, saying he doesn’t see how they tie in to the case. DiBenedetto denied the request.
Demoski had reportedly been drinking, but alcohol is not mentioned in the criminal complaint nor reflected in the charges.
According to the complaint, Zirkle was about five miles out of Koyukuk, headed to Nulato, when Demoski “came speeding up, hit the side of her sled and flipped two of her dogs.”
His speed was estimated at about 40 mph. The complaints says he then turned around. Zirkle stopped, she grabbed a hold of her lead dog and Demoski sped at them.
“Demoski then turned the snowmachine sideways so it was perpendicular to Zirkle and her team, causing Zirkle to be scared Demoski was trying to kill her and she grabbed a race marker that she held out in front of her toward the snowmachine, which then turned and headed away from her towards Nulato,” the court complaint states.
An hour later, near Nulato, Demoski reportedly passed Zirkle going about 50 mph and started spinning brodies. He stopped and revved his engine then drove off.
The complaint goes on to say that Demoski was traveling about 100 mph when he collided with King and his dog team about 10 miles from Nulato.
One dog was killed and four others injured, one critically, according to the complaint.
“Demoski did not slow down at all and continued on down the river towards Nulato,” the complaint says.
A snowmachine cowling picked up by King after the attacks matches Demoski’s damaged sled, which authorities say was missing a cowling.
Demoski’s father, Peter, also attended the court hearing, though he did not speak.
Prosecutor Bill Spiers said the case is the most senseless that he has seen since a drunken gunman shot a hole in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in 2001 near Livengood.
One if the term’s of Demoski’s release, if bail is made, is that he may not operate a motorized vehicle.
“I don’t want him to drive anything at all—not even a scooter,” Spiers said.
Outside the courthouse, a handful of dog sport enthusiasts met to demonstrate their solidarity with Zirkle and King.
They took a walk around the courthouse with a few dogs on leashes.
The group, mainly members of the Tanana Valley Kennel Club, decided to hold the demonstration after connecting through social media.
“I have working dogs,” said Dianne Marshall. “I skijor. When you own dogs, it’s your kid.”
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.