A convicted Nome drug dealer has been sentenced and will now serve four years in jail for crimes he committed last year.
Rayne Aukongak was originally arrested in January of this year, for multiple charges of making and delivering a controlled substance. Aukongak was eventually indicted and found guilty of two counts of making or distributing less than 25 doses as well as two counts for less than one gram of opioids and heroin.
As Nome Superior Court Judge Romano DiBenedetto explains, this was not just a matter of drug possession:
“Distributing narcotics in a community this size is a dangerous offense — not the most dangerous I’ve heard, certainly not — but for every person who comes in front of me and says ‘Judge, I did this crime because I’m a drug addict,’ someone has to give them the means to be a drug addict, and if you’re that person, that’s dangerous.”
The District Attorney in Nome, John Earthman, reminded the courtroom that Aukongak has a prior conviction from 2011 for similar charges to what he faces now. Earthman asked the Judge for a sentence of up to eight years against Aukongak:
“Just last fall, Mr. Aukongak was back selling opioids repeatedly, including the Oxycodone pills and heroin day after day after day. Returning to sentencing factors, rehabilitation is not a factor for a couple reasons. He’s already been through the process, he’s already been sentenced, and he is still selling drugs. Mr. Aukongak simply denies that he was involved in this, from the stand he said he hadn’t even seen heroin before. All these things are implausible, to say the least.”
As Earthman stated, Aukongak objected to the evidence against him during his trial, but at yesterday’s sentencing, Aukongak chose not to give personal testimony. Instead his lawyer, Krista Maciolek, who began representing Aukongak in October, spoke on his behalf.
“You have a nonviolent drug offender who sold to a C.I. who sought him out, and these were small amounts. Each one was less than a gram, composite total was far less than five grams, which is what was identified in the Pookot decision… so I agree that community condemnation, and reaffirmation of societal norms is paramount here.”
Maciolek recommended that the sentencing range not exceed 5 years and asked specifically for a 2½ year, flat sentence. Judge DiBenedetto disagreed with both sides’ recommendations and ultimately decided to sentence Aukongak to serve one consecutive year for each count against him, adding up to a flat sentence of four years.
Aukongak has begun serving his time at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center.
Image at top: Alaskans awaiting arraignment in Nome’s courthouse. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.