Begich takes heat for Willie Horton-style ad

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Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichEx-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Dem ex-lawmakers defend Schumer on Iran MORE’s (D-Alaska) campaign is changing an ad to remove references to a horrific crime in what some have referred to as a "Willie Horton-style" campaign ad. 

The spot was intended to raise questions about his Republican challenger Dan Sullivan’s tenure as attorney general, but the victims’ family is calling for the ad to be taken down after it ignited controversy they say could bias an upcoming trial. 

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The initial ad, released last Friday, features retired Anchorage police Sgt. Bob Glen pointing to the apartment where, in 2013, a man allegedly beat an elderly couple to death and raped their 2-year-old granddaughter and the girl’s great-grandmother.

The ad suggests the suspect in the crime, Jerry Active, got off with a light sentence under Sullivan’s watch and otherwise would’ve still been behind bars when the 2013 crime was committed.

In the ad, Glen charges Sullivan let "a lot of sex offenders get off with light sentences."

"One of them got out of prison and is now charged with breaking into that apartment building, murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter," Glen adds.

Sullivan immediately released an ad responding to Begich’s, calling the attack disgraceful. And his campaign released a timeline that showed the mistake that allowed Active to go free with a shortened sentence occurred before Sullivan was appointed as attorney general. Begich’s campaign released a timeline of its own, pointing to the fact that Sullivan’s name was on the actual plea agreement issued in 2010.

"Mark Begich's lies about this tragedy are shameful," Sullivan says in his direct-to-camera response. 

Following the release of both ads, however, an attorney for the victims’s family asked for the campaigns to take the ads down out of concern the publicity could affect the upcoming trial for the case, scheduled for this month.

While Sullivan’s campaign agreed and removed any reference to the case from its website, Begich’s campaign has temporarily taken the ad off air to be modified “to remove any potential reference to the pending criminal case,” according to a spokesman for Begich’s campaign.

But on Monday, the family’s attorney, Bryon Collins, issued a letter calling for the Begich campaign to "unconditionally order the removal of ALL ads and references to anything to do with the case," either directly or indirectly, and lambasting the senator for “playing pure politics at the expense of my clients.”

“You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible. Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them,” Collins writes in the letter.

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