JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The political reporter for Alaska's largest newspaper alleges in a police report that Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, slapped him in the face in a stairwell at the State Capitol one day after a story was published that cast the freshman lawmaker in an unfavorable light.
Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, listens to a State Affairs Committee hearing in the Alaska Capitol.
Wilson declined to comment when contacted by KTUU, but if the incident happened as the reporter alleges, the senator could face a misdemeanor assault charge. However, that could not happen until the Legislature adjourns because of a provision in the Alaska Constitution.
In the Alaska Dispatch News story, Nat Herz detailed how Sen. David Wilson's Senate Bill 90 would eliminate a state program that distributed nearly $1.5 million in cash grants for nonprofits to provide services to people with disabilities, to pay for a case manager at a youth homeless shelter, and to deliver meals to seniors.
Many of the state dollars flow into the Wasilla Republican's district.
According to Herz, he approached the senator the day after the story was printed and asked, "Hey, what'd you think – was that reasonable?"
The reporter says the lawmaker slapped him across the face a moment later.
"Nat chose to report the incident to police, and authorities are now investigating," ADN editor David Hulen said of the incident in a message to KTUU. "We support our reporter. It's not OK for a legislator to strike anyone."
The Juneau Police Department would not provide a copy of the police report filed by Herz.
Lt. David Campbell said departmental policy does not allow release of police reports until a case is closed or unless the report appears in a public court proceeding.
However, Campbell said a 29-year-old male reported at 5:36 p.m. Tuesday that he had been slapped in the face by another man in the State Capitol. Because there were no visible injuries, that incident would qualify as misdemeanor assault, Campbell said.
Wilson, in a brief conversation with a KTUU reporter on Wednesday, declined to offer his side of the story and said he will stick with a rule he has followed throughout his first year in office: decline all interview requests.
Daniel McDonald, a spokesperson for the Senate Republican majority caucus, of which Wilson is a member, offered a written statement.
"The Senate expects professional conduct and decorum from all members," he wrote. "Until all the facts surrounding the situation described are available, we have no further comment."
Under Alaska law, state legislators cannot be charged with a civil or misdemeanor crime while a legislative session is still active.
"Members attending, going to, or returning from legislative sessions are not subject to civil process and are privileged from arrest except felony or breach of the peace," the Alaska Constitution states.
That means, even if Wilson is to face charges, the Legislature must first adjourn.
There is little reason to believe that will happen anytime soon, as the Democrat-led House majority coalition and GOP-controlled Senate remain at odds over how to resolve state government's fiscal problems.