Twenty-four bootlegging cases are working their way through Bethel’s court system, the product of a two-year undercover operation by the Alaska State Troopers. Most of the accused are cab drivers and as their cases progress, many of them also insist that they are innocent.
On Thursday afternoon, Alaska Cab driver Joung Ai Lee attended her hearing by conference call. The hearing was supposed to confirm that she had the proper legal representation, but Lee doesn’t have a lawyer yet and said that she didn’t know exactly what she was accused of. “I heard from my friend that I’m on the list with all the drivers,” she said.
In the charging documents filed against her, Lee is accused of selling liquor to undercover officers on five different nights in March of 2016 while she drove the night shift for the Alaska Cab Company. Each bottle allegedly went for $50.
At her hearing Thursday, Lee told Judge Bruce Ward that she has cancer and was calling him from California where she says she’s receiving treatment. She also claimed that she hasn’t received her court summons yet.
Judge Ward reminded Lee that she had called into his court before. When she didn’t call into her first hearing he issued a $500 warrant for her arrest. She then called into her second hearing and pleaded not guilty to all charges. That’s right, Lee said to Judge Ward. “I’ve been wrongfully accused.”
Lee told Judge Ward that she wouldn’t be back in Bethel until late November and was having trouble finding the money for a lawyer. She added that she didn’t want a public defender because she thought she’d lose with one. Judge Ward agreed to push back Lee’s Calendar Call hearing to give her time to hire an attorney.
Lee is charged with five counts of selling alcohol without a license, a Class A Misdemeanor. If found guilty, she could serve one year in jail and be forced to pay a $25,000 fine. Her next hearing is scheduled for December 21.