Trial delay for Kotzebue girl's accused killer in federal court

Peter Wilson, accused of lying to an FBI agent during the search for a missing 10-year-old...
Peter Wilson, accused of lying to an FBI agent during the search for a missing 10-year-old girl, appears in federal court. (From Melanie Lombard) (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 22, 2018 at 11:03 AM AKDT
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Rich Curtner, the attorney defending charges his client lied to a federal agent in September, has a tricky problem.

Peter Wilson has a right to testify in his own defense against the allegations he lied to a member of the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force as search crews were scrambling to locate the missing 10-year-old girl.

A slight man with close shaven, salt and pepper hair, Wilson appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit, orange sandals and ankle chains, dwarfed seated next to Curtner, a larger, taller man with a mop of white hair.

The body of Ashely Johnson-Barr was later located on the tundra outside of her hometown of Kotzebue, Alaska.

Here's where the challenge comes in.

In a parallel case in state court, which includes rape and murder charges, Wilson has a right not to testify.

The challenge is how to balance the timelines of the two trials, and whether the federal case can present aspects of the case that would be fully independent of the charges at the state level.

Because the case is complex, and because there is a great deal of evidentiary material to go through, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess has vacated the November trial date Wilson would have had, and instead rescheduled it for April 2019.

"I don't feel comfortable not having a trial date," Burgess told the parties. "Simply waiting for the state case to resolve, that could be a very long time."