Former National Guard chief takes stand in lawsuit against city

Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus at a National Guard event before his resignation. (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Dressed in a blue suit and a blue and white checkered collared shirt, Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, former adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, climbed into the witness box in a federal courtroom in Anchorage.

It’s a rare moment in the wake of a misconduct investigation and rumors of illegal drug dealing and sexual assault that, in 2014, culminated with Katkus’ forced resignation and may have cost then-Gov. Sean Parnell re-election.

Katkus, a lean, fit man, answered questions with a confident, conversational tone, making eye contact with attorney Ray Brown, and at times, looking directly at the jury.

Brown represents former Anchorage police lieutenant Tony Henry, who is suing the municipality of Anchorage over his firing.

[RELATED: Court testimony reveals 'corrosive police commanders' amid 'very tumultuous period']

Katkus and Henry crossed paths in the years leading up to the heightening scandals and Henry’s eventual termination.

A 97-page report commissioned by the Municipality of Anchorage to investigate the conduct of Henry and police chief Mark Mew returned findings critical of Henry, Mew and Katkus.

Dubbed the "Brown Report" -- so named for the Pennsylvania-based investigator who produced it -- the document accuses Henry of dishonesty and of disclosing confidential informant information to "potential targets of the SAU AKNG drug investigation."

That disclosure "compromised the integrity of the SAU investigation and the safety of all involved, including the APD confidential informants, APD personnel, and their families," according to the report.

The report found that Mew "abdicated his authority" by not having Henry's conduct investigated internally, and suggests Katkus may have interfered with APD and other law enforcement investigations. although Katkus was not a primary subject of the report.

On the stand, Katkus, a former Anchorage police officer who as adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard had “top secret” level security clearance, spoke of the crossover that occurs between police officers who are also members of the Alaska National Guard.

Katkus said no law enforcement agencies ever told him he should be prohibited from receiving information about drug investigations. To the contrary, Katkus explained, it was a matter of guard members' safety for Katkus to be in the know. Guard members on multi-agency drug task forces might come into situations where other officers were armed. It was important to know what was going on to keep everyone safe, Katkus testified.

“I had to have oversight,” Katkus said, explaining that the Alaska National Guard provides military-style support with criminal analysis, surveillance equipment, and other assistance.

“I am very proud of the Alaska National Guard,” he said early in his testimony.

Brown at times asked pointed questions about the allegations of corruption that have impugned Katkus’ reputation and career.

“Have you now or have you ever been involved in sexual assault?” Brown asked.

“No,” said Katkus.

Katkus also smiled and slightly raised his eyebrows when Brown brought up the litany of criminal conspiracy allegations lodged against Katkus by a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Alaska National Guard, Kenneth Blaylock.

Blaylock had, at various times, accused Katkus of being the head of a criminal enterprise with the guard comprised of prostitution rings, weapons trafficking, drug dealing and ignoring sexual assaults, Katkus said.

[RELATED: Document reveals former Anchorage police chief mishandled internal affairs inquiry]

He denied all of it.

Many of Blaylock's accusations seem to have gained traction not only in the Brown report, but also in a 2014 report by the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations.

When asked if the OCI report found any one of the many claims to true, including those alleging Katkus's involvement in illegal, criminal or unethical activity, or any of the other claims of misconduct swirling since 2008, when Blaylock first began raising concerns, Katkus offered a four word answer: "Not one damn thing."

Katkus did acknowledge that he’d directed Blaylock, who’d become a quasi-advocate and whistleblower for sexual assault victims fearful of coming forward within the Guard, to name sexual assault victims.

“I specifically asked him to give me the names,” Katkus told the court. Not to launch a cover-up, but to ensure, he said, the victims got the help they needed and that protocol was followed.

Blaylock, Katkus said, declined to give over the names.

An unusual moment of levity occurred when Brown started asking Katkus about a phone call he’d had with an internal affairs investigator for the Anchorage Police Department, Kevin Vandegriff.

In October, several weeks after his resignation, Katkus received a “cold call” at his home from Vandegriff, who wanted to go over much of the history of individuals involved in the drug dealing and sexual assault allegations, and various meetings that had occurred.

Vandegriff never asked Katkus to come in and talk, but had recorded the phone call unbeknownst to Katkus.

Brown asked if Katkus would have been available for an in-person interview if Vandegriff had asked for one.

Turning to the jury and with an expressive nod Katkus said, “I had just recently become unemployed, so yes.”

After his testimony Friday, Katkus declined comment, saying only that, "It's been a really long day."

He shook hands with Lt. Henry in the waiting area outside the courtroom and said, "Good luck, sir," to him.

Katkus winters in Arizona and will leave tonight to return to Phoenix. He's now fully retired.

"I'm really enjoying retirement," he said.

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