Hoonah plantiff says City not providing witnesses for pre-trial depositions

By October 10, 2013Crime & Courts
Hoonah slain officer funeral procession

The funeral procession for slain police officers Matt Tokuoka and Tony Wallace moves through downtown Hoonah in September 8, 2010. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

The attorney for a widow of a murdered police officer says he’s not getting the information he needs for a civil suit filed against the City of Hoonah.

Haley Tokuoka, widow of Officer Matthew Tokuoka, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in August 2012 alleging that Sargent Anthony Wallace was negligent in breaching his duty of care to the Tokuoka family.

Tokuoka also alleges negligent training and supervision by the City of Hoonah, negligent infliction of emotional stress, loss of companionship and support, and breach of contract because of benefits like life insurance that allegedly were not provided. She’s seeking general damages in excess of $100,000 and special damages for medical and burial expenses, loss of Tokuoka’s earnings, interest, and attorneys’ fees.

John N. Marvin, Jr. was convicted during a jury trial in Juneau last November for the shootings that killed Wallace and Tokuoka in on Hoonah’s Front Street in August 2010. Last April, Marvin was sentenced to two consecutive 99-year prison terms for their deaths.

Tokuoka’s attorney Mark Choate argued on Wednesday for a judge to compel the City of Hoonah to provide the witnesses who could be deposed about requested pre-trial information for the civil suit. Choate specifically wanted binding admissions regarding over twenty different issues including the training that officers received for violent individuals or those with mental health issues. He also wanted information, for example, about the Hoonah Police Department’s certified training officers.

Anchorage attorney Frank Koziol, representing the City of Hoonah, repeatedly said that “there was no hiding of the ball.”

He contended that they already turned over the requested information and they could only provide witnesses who could comment on established facts and not provide any opinions. During a tense hearing that featured the judge and attorneys talking over each other throughout the teleconference, Koziol seemed to misunderstand that the applicable court rule only applied to designated representatives currently associated as a director, manager, or employee of a corporate defendant. But both Choate and Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez disagreed with that interpretation.

Choate has already deposed former Hoonah Police Chief John Millan and Koziol offered up another try at former Chief Jefferson Hankla. At different times, both Millan and Hankla were essentially Tokuoka and Wallace’s ultimate supervisor at the Hoonah Police Department. Choate apparently canceled a previous appointment to depose Hankla.

Judge Menendez took their arguments under advisement, solicited proposed orders, and may issue an opinion later this month on Choate’s motion-to-compel.

A response to the lawsuit filed by the City of Hoonah names Marvin as a third party co-defendant in the case. It asserted that Wallace was not negligent and did not cause the damage claimed by Haley Tokuoka. It also asked that Haley Tokuoka’s lawsuit against the city be dismissed, and any fault or award of damages be allocated to Marvin.

Trial in the civil suit is currently set for September 2014.

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