ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska judge has rejected efforts by the eldest son of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to bar the media and the public from attending proceedings in an assault case against him in a therapeutic court.
Judge David Wallace on Monday said in a written opinion that closing Track Palin’s hearings in Veterans Court to the public and the press “would violate the basic and fundamental principles set forth in long standing precedent.”
However, Wallace did agree with Palin’s lawyer to bar still, video and cellphone cameras from the proceedings, saying it would protect the privacy of those participating in Veterans Courts.
“By allowing media reporters in the courtroom it has satisfied any perceived notions that the court is not open to the public,” Wallace wrote, who was appointed to the bench by Sarah Palin when she was Alaska’s governor. “And, the media will be able to fulfill what it perceives is its obligation to the public in covering the hearings involving this defendant.”
The Associated Press and two Anchorage television stations, KTUU and KTVA, formally opposed Track Palin’s motion to outright bar the media from covering proceedings, or in the least, prevent cameras from being in the courtroom.
“It would have been very significant if the judge had not allowed the press to be present in the courtroom,” said Anchorage attorney John McKay, who represented the three media outlets. Had the judge prevented the media and public from entering the courtroom, McKay said that would be “fundamental violation of long-standing precedent and constitutional rights.”
Patrick Bergt, who is Track Palin’s lawyer, declined to comment.
Veterans Court gives eligible former service members the option of enrolling in mental health treatment programs instead of a traditional sentence.
A criminal case against Palin, a 29-year-old Army veteran, accuses him of assaulting his father last year at the family home in Wasilla, Alaska, north of Anchorage.
Track Palin was arrested in December after his mother told authorities her son was on some kind of medication and “freaking out.” A police affidavit says Track’s father Todd Palin was bleeding from head cuts. The father told police the dispute began when his son called to pick up his truck.
According to the affidavit, Todd Palin said he told Track Palin not to come to the house but that his son said he would come anyway to beat him up. Todd Palin told authorities he got his pistol “to protect his family.”
Track Palin told police he broke a window, disarmed his father and put him on the ground.
The affidavit says Todd and Sarah Palin had left the home when police arrived and that she was visibly upset.
Track Palin called officers peasants and yelled at them, and “moved around in a strange manner” before being arrested without incident, the affidavit says.
He told police he “consumed a few beers earlier,” according to the document.
In January, Track Palin pleaded not guilty to a felony burglary charge in the incident. Before the case was transferred from Palmer Superior Court, he was also facing misdemeanor charges of assault and criminal mischief.
In 2016, Track Palin was suspected of punching his then-girlfriend, who then became concerned that he was going to shoot himself with a rifle, according to court documents. He faced several charges but pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm while intoxicated, and the other charges were dismissed.
His then-girlfriend later filed for custody of their child and requested a protective order against Track Palin, who served in Iraq for a year in 2008.
Sarah Palin indicated that post-traumatic stress disorder might have been a factor in that case.
By MARK THIESSEN and RACHEL D’ORO
© Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.