Double-shooting suspects appear in court

Depasquale Torresy
James Depasquale (left in orange) glares at Jerall Torres (right in orange) as he leaves the courtroom on Dec. 10, 2013. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)


Three of the people alleged to have participated in last Friday’s double-shooting appeared in court again on Tuesday.

Neither 24-year-old Jerall Torres, 26-year-old Amanda Phillips, or 44-year-old James Depasquale entered a plea. Instead, Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy simply reviewed their bail and representation status and set court dates for preliminary hearings in the event that a bill of indictment is not returned by a grand jury.

James Depasquale
James Depasquale while in court Dec. 10, 2013. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Depasquale faces eight felony charges including assault, misconduct involving weapons and misconduct involving a controlled substance, solicitation to commit misconduct involving controlled substances, and tampering with evidence. His bail was set at $100,000 cash. Prosecutors believe he is a flight risk and a felon with a criminal record in four other states.

Jerall Torres
Jerall Torres talks to the judge while in court Dec. 10, 2013. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Torres faces two felony charges of misconduct involving a weapon and misconduct involving a controlled substance. Bail amount was left unchanged at $10,000.

Phillips faces a charge of tampering with physical evidence. Bail was set at $1,000.

Amanda Phillips
Amanda Phillips appears in court on Dec. 10, 2013. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Most of Tuesday’s hearing focused on Phillips with Carole Waters of the Office of Public Advocacy making her pitch for a low bail amount because of local family ties and the lack of felony record.

That is a situation where someone’s just been shot and someone hands something to you. I think that there’s a good degree of physical coercion as contemplated by the affirmative defense. We would also ask the court to consider carefully the mental state if someone has just heard gunshots. I think it is pretty easy to allege and we might be able to prove it with expert testimony that someone would be in shock at this point.”

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams said they’re concerned about Phillips skipping out of previous court appearances in earlier cases and her performance in this particular case.

When viewed in light of the complicity of her co-defendants, for lack of a better word, her role was slight in comparison.”

According to charging documents, prosecutors believed the incident started Friday after midnight at the Coho Park Apartments when Torres was confronted about heroin that Depasquale had given him to sell. Both eventually aimed handguns at each other with Torres firing two shots at Depasquale before he left the scene in his white flatbed truck. Depasquale’s gun apparently misfired and he allegedly pushed it off on Phillips who then hid it under the stairs of a nearby apartment.

Torres left his truck at the ferry terminal and got into a green Dodge Neon. Phillips joined him, as well as another unidentified passenger briefly.

Later, Torres took Phillips to the Breakwater Inn where she tried to talk to another man there, Kenneth Ketah. It apparently didn’t go well since Ketah allegedly threatened to kill Torres. Investigators believe that Ketah and another man, Steven “Chunk” Thomas, pursued Torres northbound on Egan Drive, and as many as 10 gunshots were fired between the two vehicles.

Juneau Police Lt. Kris Sell said they believe that the shootout on Egan Drive happened between 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Friday.

I’ve been an officer here in Juneau for 16 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. Where you have a shooting, and then the parties go their separate ways, and then there’s another shooting and – yeah, this is unique.”

Physical evidence recovered from the side of the road confirms that shots were exchanged.

It’s not often that we close Egan and have a line of people walk down it. So, I mean, this was definitely some new techniques to try to find the evidence we thought might be out there.”

Sell said they also seized some of the heroin that was at the center of the confrontation. It’s a lucrative drug to try to sell in town with street value recently skyrocketing to $1,000 a gram because of local demand and Juneau’s geographic location.

It’s extremely profitable to deal heroin. So that can tempt people into the business, but clearly, it’s a very high risk business.”

Depasquale, Phillips and Torres are currently in custody and being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. They face upcoming court hearings that are tentatively scheduled to start next week.

Before the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Phillips was brought in and seated in the back row of the jury box, which is a normal routine for defendants during initial pretrial hearings. Later, Depasquale was brought in while cuffed to a defendant from an unrelated case and seated in the front row at the far end of the jury box. Torres was then brought into the near end of the front row and appeared to avoid Depasquale’s glare.

At the end of the hearing, all three defendants were escorted out of the courtroom separately.

While Ketah and Thomas have been identified as the occupants and the alleged shooters in the other vehicle on Egan Drive on Friday morning, they have not been arrested or charged yet. Williams would only say that the investigation is continuing into that part of the case.

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