The Dimond Courthouse building, home to the Juneau offices of the Alaska Department of Law, is seen across the street from the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
A special prosecutor on Friday charged former Alaska Attorney General-designee Ed Sniffen with three counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Third-degree sexual abuse of a minor is a Class C felony punishable by two to 12 years in prison.
The charges were not initially available to the public, but Deputy Attorney General Cori Mills provided the details in an email to Alaska Department of Law staff.
Later Friday, the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published copies of the charges.
“Now that charges have been filed,” Mills wrote, “a grand jury will determine whether to indict based on the evidence presented to them.”
She added that the charging decision was made by special prosecutor Gregg Olson, “and all other prosecutorial actions in this case will likewise be handled by the special prosecutor.”
Reached by phone, Olson confirmed the information in the email but said he could not provide further details until the case has been processed and entered by the court system. As of Friday evening, Alaska’s online court database, CourtView, did not list the new charges against Sniffen.
The charges are related to Sniffen’s alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in 1991, when she was a high school student and Sniffen was the coach of her school’s mock trial team. Sniffen was 27 at the time.
The relationship came to light in early 2021 after an investigation by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica.
At that time, Gov. Mike Dunleavy had named Sniffen his preferred replacement for Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who resigned after a different ADN investigation found he had sent hundreds of unwanted text messages to a subordinate.
Sniffen, who was never confirmed by the Alaska Legislature, had been a longtime employee of the Department of Law, joining the agency in 2000 and working in a variety of roles until his departure.
According to the charging documents, Sniffen had sex with the 17-year-old on multiple occasions starting in May 1991 and continuing after her 18th birthday. The documents, based on an Anchorage Police Department investigation, state that Sniffen and the woman continued their relationship until February 1993.
Attorney Caitlin Shortell, representing the woman in the alleged relationship, said she had no comment Friday and that the woman was unavailable for an interview.
Sniffen has been represented by attorney Jeffrey Robinson, who did not immediately answer a message left at his office.
In Mills’ letter to Department of Law employees, she said Sniffen worked alongside people at the department for many years.
“He was a valued colleague and to many of us, a friend,” she wrote. “Today’s filing of charges may be disappointing and even discouraging, but our department serves all the people of Alaska and is committed to fairness and justice for everyone.”
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