Troopers investigate groping incident during Iditarod race
A day after drunk snow machiner Arnold Demoski attacked Iditarod mushers Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King, killing one of Jeff King’s dogs and injuring several dogs in both teams, a third incident happened on the Yukon that only last week was confirmed by law enforcement and the Iditarod Trail Committee.
In response to a request from the Nome Nugget, the ITC last week issued a timeline and fact sheet involving the third incident that involved a female musher, identified as Sarah Stokey.
According to the ITC statement, Stokey arrived in Nulato on Sunday, March 13 shortly before midnight and reported to race judge Karen Ramstead that she had been inappropriately grabbed by two men on snowmachines on the trail between Galena and Nulato. According to the statement, the men were stopped next to the trail and gave her the impression they wanted to give her a high five. “The incident occurred as she passed by. She stated she had been on the trail for 3 hours and the incident occurred where “the trail did a big sweeping turn by some open water,’” the statement reads.
Ramstead contacted Iditarod race marshal Mark Nordman, stationed in Unalakleet at the time, who immediately contacted Alaska State Trooper James Lester in Galena.
Lester did not respond to the Nome Nugget’s request for an interview. In response to an email request by the Nugget sent out on March 21, AST spokeswoman Megan Peters in an email on April 1 said that troopers received “some sort of information on the incident” but that nothing has been substantiated yet. She added that the investigating trooper was out of the office last week and had not had the chance to speak with the victim personally. As of press time, there was no report on whether suspects have been identified or were arrested. In response to a follow up email, Peters wrote, “The trooper has still not been able to be in contact with the person involved. Based on the very limited information that has been reported third hand to us, it is currently listed as being investigated for “harassment”. That is subject to change based on interviews and evidence.”
Under Alaska law, the act of groping another person’s buttocks or genitals or female breasts through clothing constitutes offensive physical contact that amounts to the crime of harassment in the first degree, a class A misdemeanor. Another Alaska statute says “A person commits the crime of harassment in the second degree if, with intent to harass or annoy another person, that person subjects another person to offensive physical contact.”
According to the Iditarod statement, the Iditarod Official Finisher’s Club discussed the incident, as well as the attacks on Aliy Zirkle’s and Jeff King’s teams, in Nome after the race. “Further discussions amongst the IOFC, ITC and various agencies will occur in the coming months,” the statement reads