Jury continues deliberations in beer burglary and theft case

A jury is still considering charges filed against a Juneau man for stealing a truck and ramming it into the front of the Alaskan Brewing Company. Deliberations on charges against Michael Rae lasted 6 1/2 hours on Friday before jurors decided to go home for the weekend. Some of the questions submitted to the court included a request to hear an investigator’s testimony again and whether they could deliberate until courthouse closing hours.

Michael Rae

Defendant Michael Rae listens to his defense attorney during closing arguments in the theft and burglary trial. Photo by Matt Miller – KTOO

Last April, employees of the Alaskan Brewing Company arrived at work to find the front door to the brewery’s gift shop and tasting room smashed in and several six-packs, a case, a few kegs of beer missing. A bumper was left behind that was traced to a truck apparently stolen from the nearby Lemon Creek Breeze-in store.

Police arrested 54-year old Rae at his residence in the Switzer Village trailer park where he allegedly unloaded the beer. But evidence obtained during execution of a search warrant at Rae’s trailer was declared inadmissible. Most of the prosecution’s direct evidence hinges on a disgruntled former roommate who was camping in his van near the trailer on the night of the burglary.

Repairs to the truck and brewery cost over $13,000. Value of the beer was appoximately $517.

The trial started on Monday with jury selection.

Kevin Higgins

Defense attorney Kevin Higgins makes his closing argument to the jury. Photo by Matt Miller – KTOO

During closing arguments Friday morning, defense attorney Kevin Higgins said prosecutors have evidence of a crime, but no proof that Rae did it. The prosecution provided a shaky witness – that former roommate John McGillis — who could not consistently remember details.

“And because of that, he’s the weakest link in the case,” said Higgins. “And because of that, this unbroken chain of events does not link to Michael Rae.”

District Attorney Dave Brower on Thursday showed videotape of the Breeze-In truck going back and forth between the brewery and Rae’s residence in Switzer Village. He disputed the claim that his witness provided inconsistent testimony.

Judge Louis Menendez and DA Dave Brower

Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez (left) listens as District Attorney Dave Brower (right) makes his closing argument to the jury. Photo by Matt Miller – KTOO

“John McGillis’s testimony, standing by itself, might be a hard pill to swallow,” admitted Brower during closing arguements on Friday. “But standing with those videos that corroborate everything that he told Detective (Krag) Campbell, points directly to Michael Rae.”

Rae’s disruptive behavior in the courtroom prompted recently-installed Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez to frequently warn him that the trial could be held without his presence. But there were no disruptions from Rae as the case was sent to the jury on Friday.

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