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Perotti v. State (12/24/92) ap-1267
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal
correction before publication in the Pacific
Reporter. Readers are requested to bring
typographical or other formal errors to the
attention of the Clerk of the Appellate
Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska
99501, in order that corrections may be made
prior to permanent publication.
THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
BYRAN B. PEROTTI, )
) Court of Appeals No. A-4300
Appellant, ) Trial Court No. 4FA-S89-1475CR
) O P
I N I O N
STATE OF ALASKA, )
Appellee. ) [No. 1267 - December 24, 1992]
Appeal from the Superior Court of the State
of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District,
Fairbanks, Niesje J. Steinkruger, Judge.
Appearances: Marcia E. Holland, Assistant
Public Defender, Fairbanks, and John B.
Salemi, Public Defender, Anchorage, for
Appellant. Mark I. Wood, Assistant District
Attorney, Harry L. Davis, District Attorney,
Fairbanks, and Charles E. Cole, Attorney
General, Juneau, for Appellee.
Before: Bryner, Chief Judge, Coats, Judge,
and Andrews, Superior Court Judge.*
[Mannheimer, Judge, not participating]
BRYNER, Chief Judge.
Byran Perotti pled no contest to a charge of first-
degree murder. Superior Court Judge Niesje J. Steinkruger
sentenced Perotti to a maximum term of ninety-nine years.
Perotti appeals, contending that the sentence is excessive. We
On January 4, 1989, Perotti, then sixteen years old,
abducted eighteen-year-old Johnny Jackson from a Fairbanks
restaurant where Jackson worked. Perotti drove with Jackson to
the Tanana River. After holding Jackson hostage in his car for
approximately one and one-half hours, Perotti walked him to an
island in the middle of the river, about one hundred yards from
the end of Lathrop Street. There, Perotti shot Jackson twice in
the head at close range, execution-style, killing him. Perotti
then poured gasoline on Jackson's body and attempted to burn it.
When this proved unsuccessful, he concealed the body under an
embankment of the island.
Perotti used an automatic teller machine card that he
had taken from Jackson to withdraw eighty dollars in cash from
Jackson's account. He then told a friend he had killed Jackson,
and asked for help in driving Jackson's car to the airport, so it
would appear that Jackson had left town. His friend refused.
Over the next several days, Perotti bragged about the
murder to other friends, and gloated over his apparent success.
To one friend, Perotti said he did not regret the killing,
because Jackson "deserved to die." He commented that, "When I
shot him and I saw the look in his face I've never been so happy
in my life, but at the same time I was sick to my stomach."
Perotti had apparently been planning to kill Jackson
since the spring of 1988, and had threatened Jackson, both
verbally and physically, on several occasions. Perotti's
motive was either jealousy, revenge, or both. In the early
spring of 1988, Jackson had taken Perotti's girlfriend out on a
date. A month or two later, a school official overheard the girl
tell another girl that Jackson had sexually assaulted her. The
official reported this conversation. Perotti's girlfriend spoke
to the police, but declined to press charges. Although she told
Perotti that Jackson had sexually assaulted her, the girl
evidently refused to provide him with any details. Jackson
adamantly denied any assaultive conduct.
Even though Perotti acknowledged to friends and family
members that he did not know what had happened between Jackson
and his girlfriend and that he doubted his girlfriend's claim of
sexual assault, he became obsessed with the incident, viewing it
as a personal affront. On May 11, 1988, Perotti wrote to his
This may sound egotistical, and possessive,
but he took something that was mine -- it was
and is a part of me, it was, is, like he did
it to me, even though I don't know what
happened or exactly how much he hurt you.
But he stole something that is very precious
to me, something that cannot be returned. I
want it back, and by doing what I'm going to
do, I will gain something that is equally
precious to him.
Over the ensuing months, Perotti had repeatedly proclaimed his
intent to kill Jackson, telling Jackson, friends of Jackson, and
his own friends of his intent.
Fairbanks police discovered Jackson's body four days
after the murder, on January 8, 1989. By that time, they had
received a number of reports indicating that Perotti had killed
Jackson. After obtaining a warrant, the police monitored a
conversation between Perotti and a friend, in which Perotti made
obviously incriminatory statements. They then arrested him.
Evidence seized from Perotti's home after his arrest yielded the
murder weapon, a .22 caliber pistol, and established that Perotti
had painstakingly planned the abduction and killing.
After filing delinquency proceedings against Perotti,
the state secured an order waiving juvenile jurisdiction and
permitting Perotti to be prosecuted as an adult. Perotti
thereafter entered a negotiated plea of no contest to a single
count of first-degree murder, in return for the state's promise
to dismiss related charges of kidnapping, first-degree robbery,
and tampering with physical evidence.
At Perotti's sentencing hearing, Judge Steinkruger
considered extensive evidence concerning Perotti's background,
the manner in which he committed the murder, the circumstances
that led to the offense, and Perotti's conduct in its aftermath.
Judge Steinkruger also considered Perotti's conduct in jail while
awaiting disposition of the murder charge -- conduct that
included a failed escape in which Perotti overpowered a prison
guard, took the guard's pistol, and then threatened him with it.1
In reviewing this evidence, Judge Steinkruger carefully
considered all of the Chaney sentencing criteria, State v.
Chaney, 477 P.2d 441, 443-44 (Alaska 1970), paying particularly
close attention to Perotti's potential for rehabilitation and to
his capacity for personal deterrence. Despite her recognition of
the heightened significance of rehabilitation and personal
deterrence in a case involving a youthful offender, see Riley v.
State, 720 P.2d 951, 952-53 (Alaska App. 1986), Judge Steinkruger
determined that Perotti's prospects for rehabilitation were
extremely guarded, that he was not readily deterrable, and that,
for this reason, neither rehabilitation nor personal deterrence
could be given overriding priority in fashioning his sentence.
Based on the circumstances surrounding the offense,
Judge Steinkruger found Perotti to be a worst offender, despite
his youthfulness. The judge explained her reasons for reaching
this conclusion, describing in detail the evidence upon which she
relied. Finding Perotti to be a danger and his case to be
comparable to other murder cases in which maximum terms had been
approved for youthful offenders,2 Judge Steinkruger sentenced
Perotti to ninety-nine years in prison.
On appeal, Perotti takes issue with the sentencing
court's worst-offender finding. Characterizing his offense as
the impulsive act of a youthful offender who was understandably
frustrated by the criminal justice system's seeming inability to
redress a crime committed against his girlfriend, Perotti argues
that his case is distinguishable from the type of deliberate and
cold-blooded murders -- carried out either gratuitously or for
pecuniary gain -- in which we have previously upheld
Yet Perotti advanced precisely the same argument at
his sentencing hearing. Judge Steinkruger rejected Perotti's
characterization of the crime, expressly finding it to be a
deliberate, cold-blood, execution-style murder that Perotti
committed for his personal satisfaction. Judge Steinkruger's
precise and detailed explanation of her reasons for reaching this
conclusion is amply supported by the sentencing record.
Judge Steinkruger was also aware of, and considered,
prior cases involving youthful offenders who received maximum
murder sentences. Although Judge Steinkruger recognized that,
unlike the defendants in some of these cases, Perotti did not
commit his crime for pecuniary gain, the judge saw no good reason
to distinguish Perotti's case from these cases. We concur in
Judge Steinkruger's assessment of the case law and reject
Perotti's assertion that a worst-offender finding (and, by
extension, a maximum term) can be justified only in cases
involving gratuitous homicides or homicides committed for
The sentencing record establishes that Perotti's
conduct was a far cry from the type of impulsive, heat-of-passion
murder that is typically viewed as mitigated. As the sentencing
court noted, Perotti was apparently driven to kill by a
relentless and obsessive desire for personal satisfaction; what
might actually have happened to his girlfriend was clearly
secondary to Perotti -- almost immaterial. Perotti's statements
in the aftermath of the murder establish that he did in fact
derive personal gratification from his acts and was remorseless -
- that he viewed his conduct as justified and his victim as
Under the circumstances, Judge Steinkruger could
properly have found that the fact that Perotti acted for personal
reasons other than pecuniary gain was inconsequential. Having
independently reviewed the entire sentencing record, we conclude
that the sentence imposed below is not clearly mistaken. McClain
v. State, 519 P.2d 811, 813-14 (Alaska 1974).
The sentence is AFFIRMED.
*Sitting by assignment made pursuant to article IV, section
16 of the Alaska Constitution.
1. For these offenses, Perotti had been separately
convicted of attempted escape and third-degree assault. See
Perotti v. State, 818 P.2d 700 (Alaska App. 1991).
2. See, e.g., Ridgely v. State, 739 P.2d 1299 (Alaska App.
1987); Lewis v. State, 731 P.2d 68 (Alaska App. 1987); Riley v.
State, 720 P.2d 951 (Alaska App. 1986); Cassell v. State, 645
P.2d 219 (Alaska App. 1982). See also Denbo v. State, 756 P.2d
916, 918 (Alaska App. 1988).