FAIRBANKS—The man charged with the killing of two Alaska State Troopers in Tanana on May 1 pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Fairbanks Superior Court.
Nathanial Kangas, 20, was one of a group of prisoners brought into the courtroom to be arraigned for felony offenses following their indictments last week by a grand jury.
Kangas was indicted on two counts each of first- and second-degree murder and single counts of assault and evidence tampering in the deaths of Sgt. Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich.
More than a dozen law enforcement officers from agencies such as the troopers, the Fairbanks Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms attended Tuesday's hearing. It was not as big as the group that attended Kangas’ first court appearance May 3.
Assistant Public Defender Jesse Mickels entered the plea on Kangas' behalf. He requested a jury trial this summer in Nenana, the district courthouse closest to the Tanana crime scene. He asked Superior Court Judge Bethany Harbison to revise a court order banning Kangas from calling his mother, who is a witness in the case. A bail hearing on the the issue was scheduled for Friday. Bail is now set at $4 million.
Kangas' father, Arvin Kangas, 58, also was arraigned Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to charges of evidence tampering and hindering prosecution.
Private Fairbanks attorney Jim Cannon has represented Arvin Kangas before and represented him at the hearing. He also entered the plea and asked for a Nenana jury trial.
Arvin Kangas’ bail is set at $10,000, but to be released he would also need the 24-hour supervision of a court-approved custodian. Prosecutor Greggory Olson said the tribal governments of Tanana and Ruby have asked that Kangas not return to either Yukon River village if he is released. Kangas used to live in both towns.
Cannon objected to this request.
“For the record, we would dispute that the tribe has special standing in state court in a criminal manner,” he said.
Anchorage attorney Joan Wilson, who represents the Tanana Tribal Council, interjected that “the tribe employs many people who are victims and witnesses.”
It’s not uncommon for a judge to order a defendant not to contact witnesses or not to go to a business where a crime took place as a bail condition. Harbison said the issue can be resolved at a future bail hearing.
Arvin Kangas was reportedly involved in the incident that led Johnson and Rich to be sent to Tanana. He is accused of brandishing a shotgun at a village public safety officer on April 30.
Nathanial Kangas is reported to have shot Johnson and Rich as they attempted to arrest his father May 1.
The Tanana tribal government has voted in support of, but has not formalized banishing, Arvin Kangas under tribal law. The tribal council also voted in support of banishing William Walsh, a village resident who hasn’t been charged in state court. According to the tribal council, Walsh had a history of threatening Tanana community leaders and led a radical anti-state government group that, according to the council, brainwashed the younger Kangas in its ideology.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.