Nome’s First Criminal Trial in Over a Year

A long table with a gavel resting on it. American flag in background.

Nome Judge Romano DiBenedetto’s courtroom reached resolution in their first criminal trial since the Alaska Supreme Court halted trials last March. Last week, the jury found 28-year-old Jacob Bloodgood not guilty of Sexual Assault in the Second Degree: penetration of an unaware person.

The alleged assault took place on June 23, 2018. The State of Alaska first tried Bloodgood for the assault in January of 2020 but the jury hung, resulting in a mistrial. The state decided to continue pursuing conviction and retry the case in spring of 2020 but was soon halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16th 2020 court procedures across the state were disrupted by the pandemic and left this case, among hundreds of others across Alaska, in limbo.

Nome District Attorney John Earthman, made the State’s case against Bloodgood in both trials. Earthman argued that the woman was “passed out” at the time of the alleged assault.

“All he had to do to fix this problem was wake her up and get consent, and that didn’t happen. He committed Second Degree Sexual Assault.”

– John Earthman, Nome District Attorney

Public Defender Zachary Davies represented Bloodgood. Davies argued that both the State’s witness testimony and DNA evidence were unreliable.

“Consider how many people of the state’s witnesses, offered you, ‘I don’t remember,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘probably.’  And now they ask you to walk over these brittle assurances and meet them on thin ice.”

– Zachary Davies, Public Defender

Davies highlighted that the evidence collection kit had not been correctly logged by Nome Police Department (NPD) at the time of the alleged assault in 2018. He indicated that this was perhaps due the fact that the officer heading the investigation for NPD, Officer Cordell Murray, had not yet received his police academy training. D.A. Earthman acknowledged this claim.

“Certainly the defense has pointed out that the new cop made a mistake or wasn’t completed in the report. Okay, not a huge surprise. The issue is going to be, is it a mistake that’s relevant to the results that are provided to you from Sara Graziano.”

DNA evidence was an important factor for the State trying to convict Bloodgood. However, testimony from former State Crime Lab Analyst, Sara Garaziano, proved not to be enough to convince the jury.

“From the major component from this sample matched the Y-STR profile from Jacob Bloodgood, therefore, Jacob Bloodgood and all his paternal male relatives can not be excluded as the source of DNA detected in the major component of this sample.”

– Sara Garaziano

Ultimately the jury ruled in favor of the defense, and Bloodgood was acquitted. As courts across Alaska begin to resume trials based on public health considerations, relief from the pressure of backlogged cases and some resolution can be expected for many Alaskans.

Image at top: Gavel in the Nome City Council room. (Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM).