Karjala held in complex where she defended inmates
An Anchorage defense attorney and her client face federal charges for allegedly smuggling drugs into the Anchorage Correctional Complex, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kit Lee Karjala, 54, and Anchorage Correctional Complex inmate Christopher Brandon Miller, 33, are charged with drug conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and providing or promoting contraband.
“According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, beginning as early as June 2016 and no later than December 2016, and continuing until the present, Karjala allegedly passed drugs to co-conspirator inmates, including Miller, during in-person attorney-client visits. Karjala represented Miller but was not counsel of record for the other inmates with whom she allegedly conspired. Because Karjala represented to DOC that these meetings were allegedly professional visits, DOC permitted her to meet with Miller and the other co-conspirator inmates in a room with no physical barriers separating them,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote. “More specifically, after Karjala handed a package of drugs to the co-conspirator inmate during the visit, the inmate would hide the drugs inside his body, while Karjala attempted to shield the inmate from the view of DOC security cameras and/or personnel.”
Then, the inmates would take the drugs to their cell and later distribute them.
According to a criminal complaint, the Department of Corrections inmate telephone management system recorded a phone call between someone only identified in the document as Inmate A and that person’s drug courier in December. The complaint explains that Inmate A attempted to use the courier to initiate a three-way phone call with Karjala, but she didn’t pick up. A few days later another three-way call was made — that time she answered.
For several minutes Karjala and the courier discuss items that are “suppose to be” dropped off at the jail. And then they talk about packing the items, which they never specifically identify.
But in the complaint, an agent noted that based on the investigation, the agent believes they were referring to Suboxone strips — a common medication used to manage opioid abuse and withdrawal and is also a substance that can also be abused.
“In addition, I believe that the reason Karjala asked about the drugs being packaged was so Inmate A could secrete the drugs in his anal cavity after she passed the drugs to avoid detection by DOC personnel,” the agent wrote in the complaint.
The complaint lists two examples of strip searches that didn’t turn up drugs or contraband. But on March 16, Karjala visited Miller for 1 hour and 36 minutes. Like in her other prison visits noted in the complaint, surveillance footage captures her passing a folder back and forth with Miller.
“At 6:23:38 p.m. Karjala stands up and begins to appear to be looking for something inside the cell, moving in an animated fashion in an apparent effort to distract DOC personnel who might be watching the visit, and ultimately picks up an object between the chairs and the door,” the complaint says. “At 6:23:51 p.m. Miller stands up and faces away from the camera, so his backside is towards the camera. Miller’s pants are well below his rear end at this point, and his boxer shorts are visible.”
When the meeting ended Karjala left the jail without questioning. Miller was put in restraints “to keep his hands from getting close to his backside,” the complaint said.
DOC personnel asked Miller about what they witnessed, but he denied having contraband. A federal search warrant was then obtained for Miller’s person and the FBI took him to a local hospital.
“After the X-rays were taken, the doctor advised agents the x-rays did not show any items in Miller’s digestive or anal area,” the complaint said. “The doctor further advised the agents that the doctor would not conduct any further search of Miller out of concern that a physical search of Miller’s anal cavity could endanger Miller’s health.”
Miller was taken back to the Anchorage Correctional Complex, where he was placed in a dry-cell. A dry-cell involves a segregated camera cell, to closely monitor inmates. Inmates are placed in the cell with minimal belongings and their bodily functions are closely monitored. But no contraband was found.
On May 2, Karjala drove to the jail and requested to have professional visits with Miller and another inmate. Again, Karjala left without being questioned. But around 8 p.m. Miller was placed in a body scanner where “suspicious items appeared.” He was strip searched and placed back in a dry-cell. In his time there, he excreted heroin, suboxone and other foreign objects. Two days later Karjala emailed DOC, after attempting to visit Miller, but was told he was in booking.
“This to me translates to a ‘dry cell’ or transport. Every time he comes out of dry cell, he has injuries both internal and visible external bruises, scrapes, lumps, so I am asking ahead of time to bring in a camera to photograph his condition,” she wrote in the email. She later faxed a request for an emergency bail hearing and claimed Miller was “being treated with cruel and unusual punishment,” and had sustained injuries in the past.
The same day, Miller tested positive for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and opiates. He then admitted to using heroin in the last 30 days.
The complaint also detailed financial deposits in accounts associated to Karjala.
She was arrested Wednesday and made her first court appearance Thursday.
Friday, KTVA learned the conditions for Karjala’s release include having no contact with Miller, the requirement she must stay in Anchorage and she must surrender her passport.
Karjala faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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