The State of Alaska has offered Jason Wallace immunity in the murder of John Hartman in exchange for his testimony as a witness for the state. According to Adrienne Bachman, the Attorney General’s office simply sent a letter to all parties to the case stating that Wallace had been granted immunity and would be testifying, although the conduct of those involved hints to a more complex series of events.
“The attorney general forwarded a letter to the parties, the lawyers, that Mr. Wallace will be granted immunity for his important testimony in this case,” Bachman said.
Wallace has been implicated by many, including his former attorney, high school classmate, and William Holmes, who confessed to his own role in the 1997 beating death of Hartman and fingered Wallace as the primary aggressor. William Holmes passed a lie detector test and provided chilling but credible testimony under oath to the details of the killing. Public Defender Investigator Tom Boles testified that he would “never forget” the tearful confession Wallace made to him about having killed Hartman. High school friend Scott Davison described how Wallace confessed to him as well just days after the murder, and reiterated that although he was relieved that he came forward, believed his testimony against Wallace would ultimately cost him his life. Considering that those who have testified against Wallace believe the retribution may be death, it is likely that there are many more witnesses opting not to come forward.
Wallace currently sits in maximum security prison for stabbing a friend with a screwdriver, charges related to his part in the conspiracy that left two men dead, the interrupted plan to kill an entire family, and the murder of Teacka Bacote. Wallace beat and bludgeoned her to death with a hammer, then returned to her apartment to set her body on fire in a fully occupied apartment complex. Murder victim Mahogany Davis‘ family believes he may have killed her or participated in her murder. Wallace’s pattern of past behaviors and crimes indicate that he suffers from psychopathy and is a true danger to society. He is already serving an extremely lenient sentence because he has been an informant and testified for the state in the past. It is morally reprehensible that the State of Alaska would offer him immunity. Multiple individuals have testified that he killed Hartman in a frenzy and went on to laugh and brag about it. If any of the individuals involved in Hartman’s death were to receive immunity, Wallace seems like the last pick. He should never be out of prison. John Hartman deserves justice, and denying that in pursuit of anything in this case is not okay.
In a perfect world, Wallace would confirm his role in the Hartman killing, implicate Rashan Brown, Marquez Pennington and Shelmar Johnson as William Holmes did, the State of Alaska through the attorney general would dismiss charges and release the Fairbanks Four and charge every single one of the men who actually killed Hartman with the murder. That would be the RIGHT THING TO DO. It would also represent an illogical and sudden reversal of the State of Alaska’s position, and we think the intentions with Wallace are far more likely to be sinister.
The attorney general for Alaska, Craig W. Richards, is our Governor’s former law partner. He did not come to the position through experience or promotion, and certainly owes his appointment to his close relationship with Governor Walker. Walker perpetually hints that he knows the Fairbanks Four were wrongfully convicted but doesn’t know what to do about it. Given Walker’s close relationship to the sitting attorney general they have likely discussed the case and options. Walker recently commented to Anchorage station KTUU, “I really am anxious to see what comes out in the testimony under oath, it’s really what they’ve been fighting for, their day in court. So for me to reach in the middle of a process and sort of influence that process inappropriately, I’m gonna wait until the end of next week and see.”
Walker has been hinting in commentary and rumors abound that he is waiting for the Wallace testimony. Based on that we can hope that Wallace gets on the stand, repeats the confession he has been repeating to others since he killed Hartman in 1997, the Governor and/or Attorney General take action, and the case is over. That would represent an absolute turnaround of the state’s position. However, we tend to see a lot of business-as-usual from the state, and no meaningful indication that we will see anything else.
If the state tactics continue as they have since 1997 it is easy to guess how Wallace will be used. The State may not have honesty, ethics, or the law on their side, but they really shine in predictability.
- That Jason Wallace is going to provide “snitch testimony” – information given in court to bolster the case of the prosecution which is received in exchange for some kind of reward for the witness, often sentencing leniency or immunity.
- That the State of Alaska has been in below-board negotiations with Jason Wallace directly and through his attorney and has negotiated exactly what Wallace will say for that incentive.
- That when Adrienne Bachman sat through the deposition of Wallace and was gag-worthy sweet to the killer as he answered “I plead the 5th” over and over, effectively providing no information beyond an unwillingness to incriminate himself, she already knew what Wallace was willing to testify to in court.
- That Wallace will not be made available for deposition to the petitioner’s attorneys.
- That Gazewood, as the Wallace attorneys before him, has shopped Wallace’s testimony around for a while hoping to broker a deal.
- That the State of Alaska would rather make a deal with a psychopath and set him free knowing that more people will be killed than admit they made a mistake in this case.
- That Wallace will have very rehearsed and groomed testimony that deflects as best as possible the testimony of the witnesses who have already spoken. He will have a story that attempts to dodge every piece of information which incriminates him – a reason Holmes would lie about him, a rehearsed denial of confessing to the high school friend, a denial of confessing to the public defender, his investigator, the other witnesses, and all others.
- That what Wallace gets out of this is immunity in this crime (already given), that he has been assured that his cooperation with authorities will help him come parole time, and that ultimately his psychopathy which put him in jail, enables him to lie convincingly and with small incentive, and will propel the violent crimes he commits when free again, will again assist him in securing minimum punishment for his crimes. That a system where bribing child killers with the offer of time, and the opportunity to kill again, is business-as-usual needs to be brought to its knees and overhauled.
- That the state is desperate and delusional enough to think this will work.
We are sitting here hoping and hoping that our prediction is dead wrong. Perhaps the State of Alaska as had an incredible change of heart for the first time in eighteen years and are offering immunity to seek the truth not an advantage at any price. Time will tell. Whatever story Wallace tells on the stand, he would have to be very creative to outrun the evidence of his involvement. Below is a timeline of the evidence against Wallace.
- October 11, 1997, Wallace attends a party at a high school acquaintances apartment with Bill Holmes, Marquez Pennington, Shelmar Johnson, and Rashan Brown. Epperson testimony, Holmes testimony, Duty testimony, Nutt testimony.
- The five youth leave the party to “beat up drunk Natives,” commit a few attempted assault, but ultimately find and beat Hartman instead. Wallace goes into a frenzy during the assault and stomps the young boy to death. Holmes testimony
- 1:30 am October 11, 1997, Hartman is beaten into brain death at the intersection of 9th and Barnette.
- October 13, 1997, Wallace shows Holmes a newspaper story about Hartman’s death, and they see that their victim has died and that “four Natives” have been arrested. Holmes testimony.
- October 13, 1997, Wallace and Holmes approach the others involved in the Hartman killing at school (Marquez Pennington, Shelmar Johnson, and Rashan Brown) and threaten to kill them if they ever discuss the Hartman murder. Holmes testimony.
- October 13, 1997, Wallace confesses to killing Hartman to high school friends Matt Ellsworth and Scott Davison. Davison testimony.
- December 2002, Wallace is arrested for murdering Teacka Bacote, attempted murder of Corey Spears, his involvement in the murder of two more men, the conspiracy to murder a family, and setting an occupied apartment building ablaze. State of Alaska v. Jason Wallace
- Spring 2004. Wallace snitches on his co-conspirators and provides snitch testimony against them. He turns informant on many other past criminal associates. In an attempt to trade the information for leniency, he confesses to killing John Hartman to his public defender. The public defender sends his investigator, Tom Bole, to interview Wallace. He confesses again. Bole testimony.
- September 2013. Innocence Project files a post conviction relief on behalf of the Fairbanks Four. It contains a sealed element for consideration of the court that contains “statements made by Wallace” about killing Hartman. With the assistance of attorney Jason Gazewood, Wallace fights the release of the statements for two years. Attorney Gazewood accidentally leaks the statements to the press. Roberts, Pease, Vent, Frese v. State of Alaska
- September 2015. Wallace is deposed and refuses to answer any questions, invoking his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Wallace deposition.
- October 15, 2015. Midway through proceedings for exoneration in the Fairbanks Four case and on the eve of the State’s opportunity to present, Adrienne Bachman announced for the state that Wallace had received immunity and would be a state witness.
Although Wallace could muddy the water, it is hard to imagine coming up with an excuse for all of that. Prayers and good thoughts as always for all involved. May a desire to tell the truth for redemption and the sake of the truth strike Jason Wallace and the leadership of Alaska’s justice system. Until that day comes, may the truth ever find a way to shine through the clouds cast by lies.