Alaska House Majority spokesman placed on leave after arrest

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) A longtime spokesman for the Alaska House Majority caucus has been placed on administrative leave following his arrest in an assault investigation, according to court documents and the Anchorage Police Department.

William Vandergriff, 37, was taken into custody the evening of June 12, after officers spoke with an apparently injured woman outside an apartment at the 900 block of Richardson Vista Road, a police spokeswoman said today.

According to police, Vandergriff faces a potential charge of second-degree assault, a felony. The arrest comes a year after former state Senate press secretary, Carolyn Kuckertz, was charged with drunken driving and assault.

KTUU learned of the charges in a routine review of statewide court records. Multiple attempts to contact Vandergriff today for comment were unsuccessful.

Vandergriff has served as a spokesman for then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. In his current role, which he has held since 2006, he communicates on behalf of the 27-member House GOP caucus. The Legislative Affairs Agency lists his title as professional assistant, and he earns $8,896 per month.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, supervises Vandergriff and said today he first learned of the incident shortly after it happened. Chenault said he placed Vandergriff on administrative leave at that time, though he is waiting for the court process to play out before reaching a final decision.

"I don't condone domestic violence of any kind, but we'll have to go through the process and determine what happened and what didn't happen," Chenault said by phone. "I don't know any of that, so I can't comment on it right now."

Police say the trouble began around 11 p.m. June 12, a Sunday.

Multiple people had called to report hearing a fight between a man and woman at the Government Hill apartment, spokeswoman Renee Oistad wrote in an email.

When officers arrived, a woman came out of the building with visible injuries, Oistad wrote. Specifically, arresting Officer Bryan Kahler said that she appeared to have bruises under part of her arms.

Kahler told a magistrate that Vandergriff had asked the woman to leave the apartment, but she had refused.

The officer said Vandergriff slapped the woman.

“The victim said that he started to strangle her,” Kahler told the magistrate, according to a recording of the hearing.

Oistad said Vandergriff “began to struggle” when police arrested him. “It took two officers to get Vandergriff into cuffs.”

At a hearing conducted over the phone later that night, Magistrate Judge David Bauer asked Vandergriff about his personal and work history in order to establish whether he was a flight risk.

“I work for the speaker of the House,” Vandergiff said, according to the recording. “I’ll offer that. So you have nothing to worry about.”

Vandergriff was released on $1,500 bail on June 13.

Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion said prosecutors will now review the case and decide whether to formally file charges against Vandergriff. The police report, photographs taken at the scene and conversations with the alleged victim will factor into that decision, he said.

A court appearance is scheduled for July 22.



 
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