Q&A: Rep. Muñoz sought lenient sentences for convicted child abusers, Empire reports

Rep. Cathy Munoz addresses the Alaska House of Representatives, Feb. 14, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)
Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, addresses the Alaska House of Representatives on Feb. 14, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Paula Ann Solis discusses one of her stories at KTOO on Aug. 22, 2016. Solis covers cops and courts for The Juneau Empire. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Reporter Paula Ann Solis discusses her story at KTOO on Monday. Solis covers cops and courts for The Juneau Empire. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The Juneau Empire is reporting that Rep. Cathy Muñoz, a Republican from Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley, has written judicial sentencing authorities seeking leniency for convicted offenders in a case of child sexual assault and a case of child endangerment related to sexual abuse of a child.

I sat down with Paula Ann Solis, the Empire’s cops and courts reporter, on Monday to talk about her story. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You can listen to an extended, 9-minute version of the interview here.

Q: So let’s start with the key people in this story. Who is Thomas Jack Jr.?

A: Thomas Jack Jr. was born in Juneau from what I understand from court records. However, moved to Hoonah where a lot of his family lives and has lived there most of his life. And along with his wife, a couple years back, took on two foster kids. He was convicted for sex abuse of a minor for his oldest foster child.

According to court documents, he was sexually active with his eldest foster child. Showing her affection that is not the type of affection that a father should show; him revealing genitalia to her, and doing other types of inappropriate activity with her.

Q: And what were the actual charges he was convicted of?

A: Four counts of sex abuse of a minor in the first degree and two counts of sex abuse of a minor in the second degree.

Q: These are all felony counts?

A: Yes, all felonies.

Q: And who is Mary Chessica Hauge?

A: Mary Chessica Hauge is a Juneau resident who started a relationship with a man, who, when she met him, was a registered sex offender. And they had two children together here in Juneau. And she was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison for child endangerment because she left those two children in the care of a sex offender who went on to create child pornography with them. And her inability to protect them from that situation is what led to child endangerment charges.

Q: And we all know Cathy Muñoz is the Republican legislator that represents Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley in the Alaska House of Representatives. And so how does Rep. Muñoz have anything to do with Thomas Jack Jr.’s sentencing, and Mary Chessica Hauge’s sentencing?

A: During the sentencing process for each of these defendants’ cases, as is common with any sentencing, the attorneys will ask for letters promoting the good will of their defendants, and their character. And Rep. Muñoz volunteered herself to be one of those character witnesses for both of these defendants.

Q: And what was she asking for?

A: With Mary Chessica Hauge, Cathy Munoz’s letter was just, ‘I know this person. She regularly attends church, I’m very impressed with her dedication. Consider that in your sentencing.’

And then with her friend Thomas Jack Jr., she was asking that the judge consider the length that is currently being proposed for Thomas Jack Jr., which would be 50 years, 10 suspended, 40 years would actually be served – saying this is clearly too much coming out of this long reform on crime that the state has recently seen. We know that there are other ways to reform prisoners.

Q: And what was Rep. Cathy Muñoz’s explanation for this when you talked to her about it?

A: Her first explanation was that she was a private citizen when she wrote these letters, therefore, kind of didn’t need to explain herself. When pressed for more comment, she said she was a good friend of both of these (defendants). So she mentioned doing these things, just as a friend, a private citizen as someone concerned for people she cares about.

Q: So aside from the awkward association between a politician and convicted child abusers, there’s sort of a good governance, separation of powers issue in play here, too, right?

A: Right. Speaking to one representative, the concern is you can’t separate your name from your title. And when you say, ‘This is something I want you to consider,’ it comes with a little more authority when it comes with “representative” before your title.

Q: Have you had a sense of the public reaction? If it’s, you know, kind of a mixed bag, or is it very one-sided?

A: It’s a mixed bag. It seems more, at this point, to be shock. But again, this is all public information. People are surprised to see that a representative for the state is sending these types of letters out.

You can read Paula Ann Solis’ full story about this in Sunday’s Juneau Empire.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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