Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120

02/27/2019 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:02:36 PM Start
01:03:10 PM Confirmation Hearing(s): Violent Crimes Compensation Board
01:22:03 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
Violent Crimes Compensation Board
-- Public Testimony --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                       February 27, 2019                                                                                        
                           1:02 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Matt Claman, Chair                                                                                               
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Chuck Kopp                                                                                                       
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
Representative Laddie Shaw                                                                                                      
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     John Francis - Wasilla                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
JOHN FRANCIS                                                                                                                    
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified and answered questions as                                                                      
appointee to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:02:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MATT  CLAMAN called the House  Judiciary Standing Committee                                                             
meeting to  order at 1:02  p.m.  Representatives  Claman, LeDoux,                                                               
Shaw,  Eastman, and  Wool  were  present at  the  call to  order.                                                               
Representative Kopp arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
^CONFIRMATION HEARING(S): Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                   
                    CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                
               Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:03:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
a confirmation  hearing for  the appointment  of John  Francis to                                                               
the  Violent  Crimes Compensation  Board.    Chair Claman  opened                                                               
public testimony on Mr. Francis's appointment.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:04:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOHN  FRANCIS,  Appointee,  Violent  Crimes  Compensation  Board,                                                               
shared some biographical information and  said he is the owner of                                                               
Mat-Su Computer  Medics in  Wasilla.   He stated  that he  is the                                                               
founding administrator of the Facebook  groups "Stolen in Alaska"                                                               
and  "Mat Valley  Crime Discussion."   He  said he  started these                                                               
groups because there  had previously been no way  for his company                                                               
to easily  search for stolen  computers.   He added that  he felt                                                               
the groups were a great way for  his business to give back to the                                                               
community.  He  said the groups help to keep  the public informed                                                               
about local criminals.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS stated  that, as his Facebook groups  evolved and his                                                               
business grew,  victims of violent  crimes began reaching  out to                                                               
him through  Facebook and  in person.   He  said most  victims of                                                               
violent crimes  understandably do  not feel  comfortable speaking                                                               
publicly about the  effect violent crime has had  on their lives.                                                               
He called  it frustrating  that he  can do  little to  help these                                                               
people other  than be supportive.   He  noted that he  has helped                                                               
connect victims  to his  contacts in  law enforcement,  the legal                                                               
system, and  politics.  He said  the reason he wants  to serve on                                                               
the  Violent Crimes  Compensation  Board is  because  he is  very                                                               
passionate about  helping people  to recover  from violence.   He                                                               
noted that a violent crime affects  "the entire family."  He said                                                               
he  is  compassionate  "almost  to  a  fault."    He  pointed  to                                                               
management   skills  he   has  acquired   through  business   and                                                               
parenthood.   He said  he is skilled  at determining  when people                                                               
are telling the truth and when people are embellishing.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS  addressed  questions  that have  arisen  about  his                                                               
ghost-hunting hobby.   He described  how he and his  wife entered                                                               
into ghost-hunting.   He explained  that he  and his wife  try to                                                               
distance  themselves from  the ghost  hunting conducted  by self-                                                               
proclaimed psychics and  mediums.  He discussed  the comfort felt                                                               
by people  for whom  they investigate  unexplainable experiences.                                                               
He stated that  this venture is another method  of helping people                                                               
and that "there is nothing weird or demonic about it."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:09:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  asked about  Mr. Francis's  experience in                                                               
the United States Coast Guard (USCG).                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  said he entered  the USCG  Reserve in 1979  with the                                                               
intent  to  transition  to  active  duty  after  graduating  high                                                               
school.  He explained that the USCG  was at that time part of the                                                               
Department of Transportation  (DOT) and, due to  DOT budget cuts,                                                               
he was not allowed to transition to  active duty.  He said he was                                                               
put  into  inactive  reserves  around   1983  and  left  with  an                                                               
honorable discharge two years later.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:10:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease at 1:10 p.m.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:10:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL asked  for further  detail on  [Alaska Ghost                                                               
Hunting] (AKGH).                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS said  AKGH  is the  ghost-hunting  group he  started                                                               
approximately ten  years ago.   He called the group  "pretty much                                                               
inactive."   He noted that the  group did "some episodes  for the                                                               
Discovery Channel."                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL requested additional details.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS  drew a  distinction  between  his hobby  of  ghost-                                                               
hunting and the  sort of ghost-hunting on television.   He called                                                               
AKGH "a very  simple group" and said they are  only interested in                                                               
answering  people's questions  about spirits  and the  like.   He                                                               
said AKGH consists of his family  and friends.  He explained that                                                               
AKGH would go to people's homes  or small businesses and seek out                                                               
an explanation  for various  "experiences."   He said  they often                                                               
attributed  strange sounds  to plumbing  or  the wind.   When  no                                                               
explanation can  be established, he  said AKGH talks it  out with                                                               
the  person to  settle  fears.   He said,  "We  don't believe  in                                                               
demons or anything like that."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:12:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   CLAMAN  asked   for  information   about  Mr.   Francis's                                                               
involvement with a Mat-Su victims rights [Facebook] group.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS clarified  that  he was  not a  part  of a  victims'                                                               
rights  group.   Mr.  Francis  explained  that the  two  Facebook                                                               
groups he  does oversee were  intended for individuals  to report                                                               
crimes  of theft,  not  violent crimes.   He  said  that the  two                                                               
groups  are highly  active and  that  he manages  both groups  as                                                               
founding administrator.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked  for additional information about  his role in                                                               
managing the groups.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS stated that he shares  news articles to the group and                                                               
generally  refrains from  discussion.   He gave  an example  of a                                                               
much-discussed  domestic dispute  that  generated many  comments.                                                               
He  said  he  supports  victims and  has  little  compassion  for                                                               
perpetrators.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:14:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked where Mr. Francis attended high school.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS said  he  attended Ferris  High  School in  Spokane,                                                               
Washington.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked if Mr.  Francis has  ever pled guilty  to any                                                               
crimes.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS answered "yes."                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN said, "Tell me about that."                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS said  he had been "involved with some  bad people" in                                                               
high school  and was involved in  crimes.  He noted  that he left                                                               
the group and moved away.   He said one of these people contacted                                                               
him  later  and asked  for  Mr.  Francis  to  "help him  do  some                                                               
things."   Mr. Francis said he  turned that individual in  to the                                                               
state patrol  and that the individual  was arrested.  He  said he                                                               
"turned state's  evidence," disclosed his past,  and never looked                                                               
back.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked when it was  that Mr. Francis pled guilty to a                                                               
crime and what the product was to that guilty plea.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS stated  there  was  one instance  in  which he  pled                                                               
guilty  to  burglary and  another  in  which  he pled  guilty  to                                                               
insurance fraud.  He said they were 40 years ago.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN   asked  what  Mr.   Francis  learned   from  these                                                               
experiences in relation  to his current application to  be on the                                                               
Violent Crimes Compensation Board.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS said it makes him  very sad that he was ever involved                                                               
in  criminal activity.   He  said  he was  an entirely  different                                                               
person back then.  He expressed regret for every hurting anyone.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN said  it sounds like he is someone  who erred in his                                                               
past  but was  given an  opportunity to  reform and  rehabilitate                                                               
himself.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS said "yes."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  asked if  Mr.  Francis  believes others  who  have                                                               
committed  crimes should  be given  an opportunity  to have  that                                                               
same chance at rehabilitation.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  said yes,  except those  who have  committed violent                                                               
crimes.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  asked if  Mr.  Francis's  guilty plea  to                                                               
insurance fraud occurred while he was in high school.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FRANCIS  said  he was  18  or  19  when  he pled  guilty  to                                                               
insurance fraud.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked  if the insurance fraud  was a felony                                                               
or misdemeanor.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  said he  thinks it  was a felony  on account  of the                                                               
value.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX asked  if  the burglary  was  a felony  or                                                               
misdemeanor.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  said he thinks it  was also a felony.   He clarified                                                               
that he pled to those crimes at the same time.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:18:05 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SHAW  asked  whether  Mr.  Francis  would  remain                                                               
active  with  the [Facebook]  groups  should  his appointment  be                                                               
confirmed.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS said that, unless he is told he cannot, he will.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:18:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  asked  whether Mr.  Francis's  felony  convictions                                                               
occurred before or after his time in the USCG Reserve.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS answered  that the pleas were during his  time in the                                                               
USCG Reserve.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN asked  for confirmation  that  Mr. Francis  recalls                                                               
these pleas to have occurred in or around 1985 or 1986.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  said the  crimes themselves were  much earlier.   He                                                               
said it  is "possible" the  pleas occurred in  1985 or 1986.   He                                                               
said it is difficult to remember.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked for confirmation  that these events  all took                                                               
place in Washington.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS answered "yes."                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:19:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked what his sentence was for his crimes.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS  answered "nothing."  He  said he might have  spent a                                                               
weekend in jail.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked if Mr. Francis was on probation.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. FRANCIS answered  that he was on probation for  at least five                                                               
years.  He  said the judge originally wanted to  impose two years                                                               
of probation, but he requested five years instead.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:20:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN, after  ascertaining that no one  wished to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX said Mr. Francis has an interesting hobby.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  thanked Mr. Francis for  applying for the                                                               
position and for answering committee questions.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:21:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  stated that  the House  Judiciary Standing                                                               
Committee  has  reviewed  the qualifications  of  the  governor's                                                               
appointee and  recommends John Francis's  name be forwarded  to a                                                               
joint session of  the House and Senate for  consideration for the                                                               
Violent  Crimes  Compensation  Board.     She  said  signing  the                                                               
committee report  does not reflect  intent by any of  the members                                                               
to  vote  for  or  against this  individual  during  any  further                                                               
sessions for the purpose of confirmation.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  said Mr. Francis's  name would be forwarded  to the                                                               
joint session.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:22:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 1:22 p.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Violent Crimes Compensation Board Appointment-John Francis Application 2.27.19.pdf HJUD 2/27/2019 1:00:00 PM