Driver in homicide case arrested for drinking, possessing alcohol

A Juneau man convicted of killing his friend in a car accident three years ago is back in jail.

Thomas Tyler Emerson, 21, was pulled over on North Douglas Highway early Thursday morning. He was allegedly going 72 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone with two passengers in the vehicle.

Emerson allegedly blew a .049 percent blood alcohol content, under the legal intoxication limit of .08 percent. Officers say Emerson admitted drinking three beers earlier that night. He also allegedly had a tequila bottle and an alcohol flask in his vehicle.

Possession and consumption of alcohol would be a violation of Emerson’s probation. He was sentenced to six-years in prison – with five-years suspended – for the June 2009 death of Taylor White. He was killed in an accident at 37-mile Glacier Highway that also involved alcohol.

Prosecutors have filed a petition to revoke Emerson’s probation and send him back to prison for the next five years. Probation Officer Sara Dallas wrote that she found it shocking that the defendant would drive after having any amount of alcohol. Dallas also wrote “it is clear the defendant has not learned from his actions and continues to engage in the type of behavior that resulted in the loss of a young man’s life.”

A year ago, just after his release from a halfway house, Emerson talked with KTOO about his struggle to stay sober.

“I don’t know, a lot of associates of mine are still drinking and using drugs. So, I can’t fall back into that,” said Emerson during the interview. “Still just trying to keep on the straight and narrow here. It’s been kind of tough.”

During Thursday’s arraignment hearing, Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez said the recent case is “remarkably similar to the factual basis of the underlying charge,” echoing written comments made by Dallas that the two events were “eerily similiar.” Menendez noted the alleged speeding, the alleged alcohol consumption and alcohol in the vehicle, and other people riding in the vehicle.

Citing the need to protect the public, Judge Menendez set bail at $20,000 cash with any appointed third-party custodian to remain within 24-hour sight and sound of Emerson.

Emerson’s only substantial comment during the hearing was “I understand, your honor,” made in response to bail conditions explained by Judge Menendez. Otherwise, Emerson provided simple answers to the usual questions posed throughout the hearing.

A representation hearing is planned for Monday afternoon before Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg who had sentenced Emerson in the original case. Menendez was sitting in for Pallenberg on Thursday.

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