Judge Considers Motion to Dismiss Child Sexual Abuse Charges Against Former Acting Alaska Attorney General

January 25—An Anchorage Superior Court judge is expected to issue a decision within months on motions to dismiss charges of sexual abuse of a minor filed last year against Alaska’s former acting attorney general.

Clyde “Ed” Sniffen is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl who coached on an Anchorage high school mock trial team in 1991 when she was 27. Sniffen served as acting attorney general for about five months from 2020 to 2021 and resigned as the allegations were about to go public in a news article published by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica.

Now an adult, Nikki White has come forward with the abuse allegations after hearing that Sniffen was expected to remain the state’s top prosecutor permanently.

The dismissal requests filed by Sniffen’s attorney are based on the amount of time that has passed since the alleged abuse occurred.

Superior Court Judge Erin Marston, who heard oral arguments during a hearing on Tuesday, is expected to make a decision on the dismissal requests fairly soon, according to Sniffen’s attorney. Marston is retiring from the bench, according to Rebecca Koford, a spokeswoman for the justice system.

The state’s independent special prosecutor indicted Sniffen in May, more than a year after White’s allegations became public. He was indicted by an Anchorage grand jury in September on charges of sexual abuse of a minor by an authority figure.

Sniffen’s attorney, Jeffrey Robinson, has since filed two motions to dismiss the case: one focused on the statute of limitation guidelines and the other on the claim that the lengthy delay between the alleged abuse and the state charges violated the Sniffen’s right to due process.

The lengthy prosecution delay means some evidence no longer exists, Robinson said. It also prohibits Sniffen from providing alibis because there are no exact dates or locations for some of the allegations, he said.

On Tuesday, Robinson and the state’s independent special counsel Gregg Olson presented arguments on the motions to dismiss in a brief hearing before Marston, who will now consider the motions before issuing an order with his decision.

Before the hearing began, Sniffen, once in line to be the state’s top attorney, chatted collegiately in the nearly empty courtroom with his attorney and Olson, the state’s attorney now leading the investigation against him.

The case began almost 30 years ago.

The Anchorage Police Department opened an investigation in 1994 when White disclosed the abuse to a counselor, a provider who is required to report possible criminal activity involving children to authorities. White has said that he did not feel strong enough at the time to pursue the case and declined to speak to an investigator at the time. The police did not continue the investigation without his cooperation.

During a hearing earlier this month, both lawyers questioned a number of people, including White and investigators who handled the case in 1994 and in recent years.

Robinson noted that several records requested by the detective in the recent investigation are no longer in existence, including documents from the high school or the Anchorage Juvenile Court that could have established Sniffen’s roles in the shows, the determining factor in determining whether he has committed a crime. The age of consent in Alaska is generally 16, but the law makes it illegal for an adult to have sexual relations with a 16- or 17-year-old whom she is teaching, mentoring, or training.

There’s no way to know what records may have previously existed, Olson said, but the detective now working on the case was digging through the documents.

Robinson said police “lost the ball” by not following up on the case in the decades between the initial charges and now.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Olson said it made sense for police to halt the investigation in 1994 because they didn’t have a firsthand account of what happened from the victim and therefore didn’t have enough probable cause to press charges. .

The defense “is blaming the victim for their inability to come forward,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Office of Special Prosecutions indicted Sniffen, but in reality the case was prosecuted by an independent special prosecutor who was appointed and contracted to handle the case. He is not an employee of the Office of Special Prosecutions.