By the end of 2019, the State hopes to have three new federal prosecutors who will focus specifically on crimes in rural Alaska. Those new positions are part of the aid package from the Department of Justice after U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared a public safety crisis earlier this year.
According to Frank Russo, Criminal Chief of the US Attorney’s office in Anchorage, those prosecutors will prioritize federal cases relating to rural Alaska but can also assist in the back-log of state cases.
Some of that back-log could include current “cold cases” related to sexual assault or unsolved murders. Russo says,
“What we see are our federal prosecutors, our new federal prosecutors, sort of teaming with some of the state prosecutors who are responsible for some of those areas.”
He expects these new employees to aid in prosecuting drug-trafficking incidents throughout the state, particularly anything utilizing the U.S. Postal Service. But, Russo explains, crimes involving technology often fall into federal jurisdiction too, including kidnapping and child exploitation, including:
“… possession of child pornography: that’s another area we can get involved and try cases. Sex offender registry, people who are required to register as a sex offender and are not are certainly subject to federal prosecution.”
Recent cases requiring federal prosecution in Western Alaska include two Ravn Air employees who were caught stealing computers meant for rural school districts and the indictment of a Kotzebue postmaster caught smuggling marijuana through the U.S. Postal Service. Violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act also fall within federal jurisdiction.
Although the new prosecutors will focus on rural Alaska, they will still be based out of Anchorage and Fairbanks. One of the positions has already been filled. Russo says applications and background checks are being conducted for the other two, who are expected to work specifically on criminal cases.
The contracts are set for three years.
Image at top: Photo: Alaska State Troopers file.