Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Alaska arrest was delayed by election: investigator

AP , ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

A drug investigator says authorities delayed the arrest of a woman tied to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s family until after the November election, in which Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate, a newspaper reported.

Sherry Johnston — whose son Levi Johnston is engaged to Palin’s daughter, Bristol — was arrested on Dec. 18 on six felony drug counts.

She is accused of selling Oxycontin, a strong prescription painkiller, and pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Investigator Kyle Young sent an e-mail to the Public Safety Employees Association saying the search warrant of Johnston’s house was delayed for political reasons, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Monday.

“It was not allowed to progress in a normal fashion, the search warrant WAS delayed because of the pending election and the Mat Su Drug Unit and the case officer were not the ones calling the shots,” Young wrote in the Dec. 30 e-mail.

The warrant was delivered the same day as Sherry Johnston’s arrest.

Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters insisted the case was handled fairly and said no one in the governor’s office knew troopers were investigating until Sherry Johnston’s house was searched.

After the house was searched, Masters said he called Palin’s chief of staff, Mike Nizich, to alert him of a potential media frenzy.

Colonel Audie Holloway, the troopers’ director, also vigorously disputed that there was anything irregular in how the case was handled.

A message left for Young with his union was not immediately returned on Monday.

Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin recently announced the birth of their son. The baby, Tripp, is the governor’s first grandchild.

Also on Monday, Levi Johnston’s father, Keith Johnston, said his son quit his job as a North Slope oil field worker after questions arose in a weekend newspaper column about Levi’s eligibility to work as an apprentice electrician without a high school degree, the Anchorage Daily News reported on its Web site.

There was no phone listing for Keith Johnston.

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