Scholar's past adds intrigue to Alaska's student loan fraud trial

She may be the most academically accomplished woman ever to sit in the defendant's chair in Anchorage federal court.

Rachel Yould, a former Fulbright and Rhodes Scholar, and Oxford University Ph.D. candidate, took that seat Tuesday morning with her family behind her and pleaded not guilty to ten counts of defrauding on her student loans.

In a courtroom where her supporters outnumbered her accusers, the 37-year-old former Bartlett High graduate and 1996 Miss Anchorage, listened to Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith read the indictment. Yould, who lives in Japan, has come home to answer the charges -- a woman who's worked with Mother Teresa in India and advocated for AIDS victims, accused of a bunch of felonies.

Each count of fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, although Yould is unlikely to get the maximum if convicted because of her lack of a criminal record.

Both sides agree the case against Yould is complicated. Is she a criminal, like prosecutors say? Or is she a victim who's being re-victimized, as her defenders say?

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