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Sexual assault case involving airman shocking even to Anchorage police

Ben Anderson

An Eagle River woman was arrested Wednesday on charges she sexually assaulted a U.S. Air Force airman, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

Lagina Griffiths, 40, faces first- and second-degree sexual assault and coercion charges stemming from an encounter with the airman that began in downtown Anchorage on Friday, Aug. 10.

Police see sexual assault cases frequently in Alaska's largest city; Anchorage has been noted as one of the nation's most dangerous cities for women. But sexual assault cases involving male victims and female suspects are uncommon, according to Sgt. Ken McCoy, an APD Special Victims Unit detective.

Add coercion and the case becomes unusual.

"It's very rare that we see this type of coercion," McCoy said. "We have investigated these type of cases before, but they’re very rare, and even more rare when the man is the victim and the woman is the suspect."

Charging documents allege that Griffiths first met the Japan-based airman at Rumrunners. The airman, identified only as N.D., was at the popular night spot with two British soldiers, in Alaska performing exercises with the Air Force.

APD Detective Brett Sarber, in an affidavit, said that Griffiths then allegedly offered the 25-year-old airman a ride back to his hotel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. After N.D. got into the car with Griffiths, she allegedly told him she didn't want to be pulled over for a DUI while going through the gate on base, and instead took him to her house, where he was going to sleep on the couch.

McCoy said the alleged assault began while the airman was sleeping. That constituted second-degree sexual assault, since the airman told her to stop and she did, McCoy said.

"She then re-engaged with him again a short time later, which is when it would go to first-degree assault since he had told her not to engage in sexual acts with him," McCoy said. The charging documents allege that N.D. awoke twice during the night with Griffiths assaulting him. 

Detective: 'Unlike anything I've ever heard before'

Griffiths then allegedly contacted N.D. again on Sunday, asking to see him and making threats about going "public" with their encounter. N.D., who had previously told Griffiths that he had a wife in Japan, met with her and recorded more than an hour of audio on his phone from that meeting, which Sarber listened to.

He said in the affidavit that "it became very obvious" from the recording that Griffiths wanted to engage in intercourse with the airman, so that she wouldn't tell his wife and "wreck his life."

"The recorded conversation is unlike anything I've ever heard before, and indicates Griffiths is very controlling, manipulative and coercive, and is essentially trying to extort N.D. into doing something sexual with her in exchange for Griffiths not telling his wife or commanders about what happened," Sarber said in the affidavit.

Sarber arranged for a wiretap on a phone and had N.D. call Griffiths to see if she would more explicitly outline the threat. The affidavit said Griffiths was evasive during the phone call.

"Griffiths and N.D. went around and around verbally," the affidavit said, "Griffiths never admitting that she wanted to have sex with him, Griffiths not willing to discuss their relationship or their situation over the phone."

After Griffiths called the victim's wife in Japan late at night Tuesday or early in the morning Wednesday, Sarber brought Griffiths in for questioning. There, she reportedly told a story that contradicted the airman's version of events, including the conversation which N.D. had recorded and Sarber had listened to.

Griffiths reportedly told Sarber that the airman had wanted to go back to Griffith's house, and that they'd had consensual sex twice. Griffiths asserted the airman had not told her to stop, but said she knew he was married.

Sarber said that when Griffiths was confronted with inconsistencies in her story about when she met with the victim and he had recorded it, "she grew very nervous. She was sweating from head to toe, biting her lip, and was visibly shaking, then she asked to leave."

The airman contacted the Air Force Office of Special Investigations on Tuesday, who then reported the incident to Anchorage police. After gathering evidence in the case, an arrest warrant was issued for Griffiths and police arrested her the same day.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com