FAIRBANKS — All criminal charges were dismissed last week against the coordinator of the Village Public Safety Officer program for the Interior region, who was charged last summer for driving a truck into a car that she said had blocked her into a parking spot July 4 at the Tanana Lakes Recreation Area.
Sgt. Jody Juneby-Potts, 41, was issued felony and misdemeanor summons in the case in late July. Prosecutors never brought the more-serious charge of felony third-criminal mischief (the crime of intentionally doing more than $750 in damage to someone else’s property) to a grand jury and Potts was never indicted. That charge was dismissed in October. On March 7, an additional misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident was dismissed under the terms of a civil compromise.
Village public safety officers are public safety officials trained and paid for by the state, but managed by regional Alaska Native nonprofit tribal consortium including the Tanana Chiefs Conference. VPSOs provide a variety of emergency services and have limited law enforcement powers. Juneby-Potts has worked for the VPSO program since 2009 and has been the program coordinator for the Interior since 2013.
Potts’ attorney Frank Spaulding said in an interview this week that the owner of the car has been compensated for the damage through insurance and is satisfied with the case being dismissed.
“I think this is ultimately the best resolution. Charges never should have been filed to begin with, but we’re happy that it’s over,” he said “This should have been worked out with insurance, and police should have known that. Eventually we got there, but it just took time.”
The charge against Potts stated that she did nearly $3,000 in damage to a Toyota Camry that was blocking her Toyota Tundra pickup. The trooper who wrote the criminal complaint said that Potts said she was in a hurry to leave the recreation area because she was hosting a barbecue at her home.
Spaulding emphasized that his client took efforts to contact the owner of the car before using her truck to move it out of the way.
“She did everything that she believed she could at the time to find the owner of the vehicle and get her to move her car. She tried to enlist the help of the authorities that where there,” he said. “She did damage the vehicle when she pulled out of the space and eventually left. She didn’t really realize the extent of the damage that she had caused and when she was contacted by authorities she immediately gave her name and insurance information because she wanted to be responsible.”
Prosecutor Javier Diaz at the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals described the dismissal of the case in similar terms as Potts’ attorney:
“After consultation with the victim and analysis of the charges, we felt this resolution was appropriate and complied with the victim’s wishes. The victim has received full restitution for the vehicle damage,” Diaz wrote in an email.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors