ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Gov. Dunleavy and Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson have officially relieved stabbing victim Stephen Hansell from his obligation to pay legal fees in his nearly 20-year-old case.
in Anchorage on Friday, Gov. Dunleavy relieves Stephen Hansell of debt obligations related to his nearly 20 year-old stabbing case. (KTUU)
Hansell was just eight years old when he was stabbed in an attack at Mt. View Elementary school. He and three other children were seriously injured in the attack. Jason Pritchard, the man who stabbed the children, died in prison earlier this year while serving a 99-year sentence.
A lawsuit was filed after the incident, and Hansell, one of the victims of the crime, was named as a plaintiff. The plaintiffs lost, and Hansell's PFD was eventually garnished to cover legal fees and other court costs.
“It’s a feel-good decision,” the governor said at a press briefing in Anchorage on Friday. “What we wanted to do was correct a small injustice to get things back on track.”
“We looked into this matter and felt in this particular case it was appropriate that we should no longer collect these attorney fees against Mr. Hansell, and to relieve him of this judgment. The Department of Law has filed paperwork to make it official,” the Governor said.
Clarkson says Alaska state law allows prevailing attorneys to collect legal fees, that’s why the state has been garnishing Hansell’s PFD to pay the fees since he lost the court case.
Hansell says he realized his PFD checks were disappearing in 2014. Court documents show the fees amount to nearly $25,000, including partial payment of attorneys' and paralegal fees, and a post judgement interest rate of 3.33 percent.
Clarkson says relieving Hansell’s judgment will not actually change state law for future cases.
“That’s simply the law in Alaska," Clarkson said. "The only people that could change that would be the Alaska Supreme Court."
Clarkson added it is within both his and the governor's power to relieve the judgment against Hansell. As for the debt already fulfilled by previous PFD garnishments, Clarkson did not have an answer when a reporter asked whether that money would also be relieved or refunded.
Hansell said the pardon for the existing debt and the fact the state will no longer garnish his PFD are reliefs. However, his next step is to get back the money he has already paid in legal fees.
"Now I don't have to worry about this part being garnished," he said. "Hopefully work towards reimbursement, or see what else I can do legal action-wise regarding the case."
Hansell celebrates his 27th birthday on Monday. After a long week, he said his plan for the weekend is just to relax. “I hope to keep moving forward, and I hope that no one else has to go through anything like this,” he said.
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