Prosecutor Chris Carpeneti has resigned from the Bethel District Attorney’s office. His resignation comes on the heels of the Walker Administration’s firing of Bethel District Attorney June Stein. Carpeneti had been tapped to be interim leader at the Bethel DA’s office after Stein’s departure.
Rick Svobodny, the assistant attorney general for the state’s criminal division confirms that Chris Carpeneti has resigned.
“So last Monday I received a phone call from Chris Carpeneti who was telling me that he was going to be resigning effective April 3rd of this year, said he wanted to take some time off,” Svobodny said.
Carpeneti’s resignation comes about two weeks after the firing of Bethel District Attorney June Stein.
While working in the office Sunday, February 22nd, Stein received a letter, hand-delivered from a Deputy Attorney General of her quote “impending release.”
Stein says the letter said, quote: “This action is being taken at the direction of the governor as part of the transition of the new administration,” end quote.
The Governor’s spokesperson has so far declined repeated requests for an interview about why Stein was fired and maintains Governor Bill Walker can’t talk about it because it’s a personnel issue.
Svobodny says Carpeneti’s departure is a concern.
“This office now is left with less experienced offices than some of the others. And so I’m sure that we are going to have to be extra vigilant about providing extra support to the younger lawyers,” Svobodny said.
Without Stein and Carpeneti, the office will be left with five relatively inexperienced attorneys on staff.
Carpeneti did not want to go on tape but confirmed in an interview that he had resigned and said Friday, “I’ve been here for seven and a half years and the timing is right to make a change.” He did not answer questions about whether the Governor’s firing of Stein had anything to do with his resignation.
Carpeneti is the son of former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alaska, Walter “Bud” Carpeneti. The younger Carpeneti was a leader in the Bethel Court, prosecuting some of the most brutal criminal cases to come through its doors.
Svobodnty says the Bethel court is busy and handles some of the most difficult cases in the state involving sexual assault, sexual abuse, domestic violence and other violent crimes.
“Bethel has special issues. A lot of their cases are more serious than some of our offices handle. They have probably the second biggest geographical area,” Svobodny said.
The Bethel court services an area the size of the state of Oregon and half of the cases are from the surrounding 54 villages. Svobodny says it’s sometimes difficult to get police reports and it takes more time to prosecute cases. There’s also a high turnover rate.
“We’re always concerned when we’re not fully staffed. But we are prepared to deal with that situation. Here we have 7 lawyers and we’ll have two who will be gone. That leaves us like at about 75%. I’d prefer it to be 100%,” Svobodny said.
Recently the Bethel DA said they were handling more than 1,500 cases.
A spokesperson for the Alaska Attorney General’s office says they are actively working on a plan to ensure adequate coverage of the office and will make that public as soon as it’s finalized.
Stein’s last day is Monday, March 9th. Carpeneti’s last day is scheduled to be April 3rd.