Sentencing reset for Alaska strip club owner in dumping case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2017 8:59 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A sentencing hearing has been canceled for a second day in a row in the case of an Alaska man who was convicted of illegally dumping human waste into a harbor while operating a floating strip club.

Darren Byler is now scheduled for sentencing Monday afternoon. He was set to be sentenced in Anchorage this week but twice was unable to make it after his flights, including one on Friday, from Kodiak Island were canceled.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason rescheduled the sentencing after telling Byler by teleconference to book a Sunday flight to Anchorage.

Byler, who faces prison time, said earlier Friday that he plans to appeal whatever sentence is imposed. Byler said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he was targeted because of disapproval over the business he ran on the 94-foot "Wild Alaskan," a converted crabbing boat.

"Simply put, I was selectively and maliciously prosecuted by an emotionally charged case because of what I was doing with my entertainment charter. That's just the bottom line," he said while waiting to catch the flight to Anchorage from Kodiak Island before it was canceled. "This is all about morality police."

Federal prosecutors have recommended an 18-month prison sentence for Byler.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Reardon denied in an interview that Byler was targeted because of his business and said evidence showed the U.S. Coast Guard tried to work with Byler to bring his waste disposal practices into compliance.

"This was a case, in our view, based upon all the facts, that required prosecution," Reardon said.

Byler's attorney, John Cashion, in a sentencing memorandum asked the judge to consider a fine and probation instead of prison time. Cashion said that Byler is "especially needed as a partner to his wife and family in a frontier subsistence environment."

In a letter to Gleason, Byler's wife Kimberly Riedel-Byler also asked for her husband to be kept out of prison.

Byler said he would appeal the sentence even if he only gets probation. He previously asked for a new trial but the request was denied.

Byler was convicted in December 2015 of dumping sewage in violation of the federal Refuse Act and lying to federal authorities. The maximum penalty is five years in prison for the false statements and $25,000 for each violation of the federal Refuse Act.

Riedel-Byler was found not guilty of the same charges.

According to prosecutors, Byler piped raw sewage from Wild Alaskan bathrooms into the harbor near Kodiak in 2014 instead of taking it 3 miles offshore and told the Coast Guard that the waste had been disposed of properly.

The Wild Alaskan opened for business in June 2014 and encountered problems early on.

The floating bar was briefly shut down by the Coast Guard after someone reported that an overloaded water taxi took patrons to the converted vessel.

The Coast Guard also found the boat had an expired locator beacon, expired inflatable devices on two life rafts and inoperable navigation sidelights.

Byler said at the time that he believed his troubles happened because people disapproved of the exotic dancers aboard his boat.

The boat operated as a strip club until late 2014, court documents said.

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