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Wright v. State
United States District Court, D. Alaska
May 8, 2019
SEAN WRIGHT, Petitioner,
STATE OF ALASKA, Respondent.
K. SINGLETON, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Wright, a state prisoner now represented by counsel, filed a
Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, dated February 27, 2018. In the
Petition, Wright challenges his 2009 conviction for sexually
abusing two young girls on the ground that his speedy trial
rights were violated when the State of Alaska filed a felony
information against him in November 1999 but did not arrest
or indict him on the charges until almost five years later,
and he did not proceed to trial on the charges until almost
ten years later. Respondent has answered, and Wright has
November 1999, Wright was charged in a felony information
with sexually abusing two young girls. On direct appeal of
his conviction, the Alaska Supreme Court laid out the
following facts underlying the charges against Wright and the
procedural background of his case:
The State began investigating Wright in February 1999 after
receiving a report that Wright had sexually abused his
eleven-year-old stepdaughter, K.A. K.A. and her mother,
Evelyn Wright, had confronted Wright about the abuse, and
Wright moved out of the home, at which point they informed
the police. Alaska State Trooper Investigator Ruth Josten
interviewed K.A. and Evelyn on February 16 and 17, 1999.
Evelyn indicated that Wright may have also abused another
child, M.C., the daughter of his prior long-term partner. On
March 4, Josten made contact with M.C., who confirmed that
Wright had sexually abused her a decade prior.
When the investigation into the sexual abuse began, Wright
left the state. Initially, he stayed with his brother in
Arkansas. He subsequently decided to leave Alaska permanently
and, over the next five years, worked various jobs in
Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee,
At first, Wright stayed in contact with Evelyn via phone and
letter. He called Evelyn on February 28 and March 1, 1999,
but would not say where he was. Josten placed a phone trap on
Evelyn's phone on March 2. With the phone trap, the
Matanuska Telephone Authority identified phone calls from
Wright to Evelyn on March 9, 10, and 11 as coming from
Arkansas. In phone calls between February 28 and April 1,
Wright expressed concern that the calls might be monitored by
police, checked to see whether a warrant had been issued for
him, indicated that he was attempting to retain counsel, and
expressed his desire to achieve a non-criminal resolution of
the allegations against him.
In mid-March 1999, he returned to Alaska. He stayed with a
friend in Anchorage except for the weekend of March 20-21,
which he spent with Evelyn in Wasilla. While back in Alaska
he sold land to a friend, arranged to sell his truck, and
placed his personal belongings in storage. On March 22 he
formally resigned from his job and took a
“red-eye” flight that night back to Arkansas.
While Wright was waiting for his flight out of Alaska, he
wrote to a friend:
I don't know what's going on but I got a bad feeling,
time to travel while I can. Note to trust no one, I won't
call for a long time and don't know where I'm going
yet. Have to stick to myself and stay away from family and
friends till my attorney knows what's happening and how
to deal with it. So I act like a termite for a while and work
where I can to pay lawyer and survive.
Josten did not learn that Wright had been in Alaska until May
1999. Wright did not return to Alaska until after he was
arrested in Minnesota in 2004.
Wright telephoned Evelyn frequently for several months after
permanently leaving the state, but according to Evelyn, this
regular contact ended after a warrant was issued. On May 6,
1999 Wright wrote to Evelyn to send her an address where he
could receive mail. The address was his brother's in
Vilonia, Arkansas, but it was clear this was only a
forwarding address. He wrote, “Bill will get my mail to
me were [sic] I'm at.” This was the only address
Evelyn and Josten had for Wright.FN1 The record
reflects that Wright also occasionally received mail at
several mailing addresses in Russellville, Arkansas, where he
at times lived with a girlfriend.FN2 And Wright
kept his brother apprised of where he was working.
FN1. Evelyn used the Vilonia address to contact Wright in
order to obtain a dissolution of their marriage. The Palmer
superior court did so as well. Wright waived his right to
appear in the dissolution proceedings and signed the
dissolution paperwork before a notary in Arkansas.
FN2. At one of the Russellville addresses, Wright received a
summons from a law firm about a case in Juneau regarding his
overdue student loans. He also gave a Russellville address to
the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics when he made a request
for a death certificate.
Josten completed her investigation in June 1999. She
forwarded the information she had gathered to the district
attorney's office for review, and, aware that Wright had
fled the state, requested that an extraditable arrest warrant
issue. Her request was declined, “inexplicably, ”
according to the superior court.
Five months later, in November 1999, the State filed a
criminal information with the court charging Wright with
eleven counts of sexual abuse of a minor. On November 16,
1999, an arrest warrant was issued for Wright. But the
warrant was non-extraditable, so it was not placed in the
FBI's National Crime Information Center system.
In the summer of 1999, Josten was reassigned. Between then
and 2004, she periodically checked for information about
Wright using databases available to Alaska State Troopers,
but she made no other efforts to locate Wright.
Wright obtained an Arkansas driver's license in 2001. And
between 1999 and 2004 he worked at a number of nuclear
facilities requiring security clearance. Had his warrant been
entered into the National Crime Information Center database,
his employers would have discovered it.
On September 17, 2004, almost five years after the felony
information was filed, Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Iliodor
Kozloff received an inquiry from an employer in Minnesota
about Wright.FN3 Sgt. Kozloff confirmed there was
an arrest warrant for Wright, but discovered that it was
non-extraditable. He then contacted the district
attorney's office, which decided to obtain an
extraditable warrant. Wright was subsequently arrested and
brought back to Alaska.
FN3. According to the State, the personnel officer who made
the inquiry was suspicious since “it appeared that Mr.
Wright wasn't providing any residences since living in
On October 3, 2004, Wright was arraigned on the charges filed
in 1999. On October 12, 2004, a grand jury indicted Wright on
eighteen counts of sexual abuse of a minor covering the abuse
of K.A., M.C., and a third girl, T.W.FN4
FN4. The State later agreed to dismiss the counts pertaining
to the abuse of T.W. on statute ...
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