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ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Nikki Dougherty White, now 47, recently contacted the news organizations with a detailed of how she and Sniffen began a sexual relationship in while she was a student at West Anchorage High School.
The sexual relationship began during a trip to New Orleans for a national competition when she was 17, and it continued for about two years back in Anchorage, she said. A second former teammate said he learned of the sexual encounter around the same time, possibly on the plane ride home. Under an Alaska law enacted inmonths before Sniffen and White traveled to New Orleans for the national mock trial competition, it was illegal for an adult to have sex with a or year-old whom he or she was teaching, counseling or coaching.
In many other instances, the age of consent in Alaska is At about 3 p. On Saturday afternoon, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Turner, said the governor was unaware of the allegations against Sniffen when he accepted his reation on Wednesday. Sniffen is the second Alaska attorney general to step down within the past six months amid a Daily News and ProPublica investigation into their interactions with women. Former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson quit in August, hours after the newsrooms revealed he had sent hundreds of unwanted text messages to a junior colleague.
Sexual misconduct allegations prompt another alaska attorney general to re
Sniffen was named his temporary replacement and, on Jan. Sniffen started working for the Alaska Department of Law inserving as a senior assistant attorney general in the consumer protection unit, then as a dating assistant attorney general, deputy attorney general and chief of staff.
He worked for multiple administrations run by Democrats, Republicans and an independent. Former Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, who elevated Sniffen to the position of deputy attorney general during her term, said she had never heard any allegations against him. Several Anchorage attorneys said they had been aware for decades that Sniffen had an inappropriate relationship with a young woman early in his career.
In addition to helping coach the mock trial team at West Anchorage High School, Sniffen also volunteered for the nonprofit Anchorage Youth Court, said White, who said she dated Sniffen for about two years from to Public records show White and Sniffen lived at the same address man Anchorage after she turned White said that while they were dating, Sniffen was told he could no longer volunteer for youth-oriented organizations when those nonprofits learned of his potential relationship with Anchorage former student.
Attorney Michael D. White was the statewide coordinator of the high school mock trial competitions in the early s. He said that within a year of the New White trip, the event organizers also learned that Sniffen was in a relationship of some kind with one of the students he had coached.
That teammate said she then told two other members of the team who are now attorneys, James Christie and Chester Gilmore, on the flight home to Anchorage. Gilmore confirmed that. He said he was surprised to see Sniffen nominated as attorney general.
Inthe Alaska Legislature sought to close an apparent loophole in state sex crimes statutes after charges were dismissed against an English teacher at Bartlett High School who had been accused of having consensual sex with a year-old student. A judge at the time found there was no law against the relationship. That law became active on Sept. A substantially similar version remains on the books today.
Nikki White said she first met Sniffen in earlywhen she ed the mock trial team at West Anchorage High School. The competitions involve students learning about the law and the judicial system by playing the roles of attorneys and witnesses.
Some of the participating students were also involved in the debate team and Anchorage Youth Courta separate nonprofit. White said that meant the young attorney worked with her and other students about once a week leading up to the state competition.
In Mayhe traveled with them to the national competition in New Orleans. Several of the high school students, now in their 40s, said they spent two nights in that city taking advantage of the lax enforcement of liquor laws. I remember guys selling ounce hurricanes on the side of the street. A West Anchorage High School teacher, Gail Knutson, was on the trip as a chaperone but the students were able to slip out without her knowing, Gilmore and Christie said. At times, Sniffen, though a coach for the team, was with them, according to White, Gilmore and another teammate.
Knutson, in a recent phone interview, said she had no knowledge of White and Sniffen having a sexual encounter on the New Orleans trip. She said she also did not know the students had been out drinking.
Gilmore said that on one of the nights, the group was at a jazz club or bar and one of the other students nudged him to look at Sniffen and White sitting together. White, in a nearly two-hour interview over Zoom, described going out to eat a crawfish boil and drinking at bars with Sniffen and others.
I remember him touching me on my upper thigh. White said Sniffen bought her a pina colada and hurricanes and paid for beers. And what he brought me later I found out was not virgin and he actually had an extra shot added. The group walked from Bourbon Street to the Hyatt, where the team was staying. Sniffen and the students were on the same floor, she said. Instead of going back to her room, she went to his room, White said. In an of the night that White wrote about two years later, at a time when she was considering telling the bar association about the relationship, she wrote that she leaned in and kissed Sniffen.
She did not send the letter but kept it and shared it with the Daily News and ProPublica.
The two had sex that night and the next, she said. I was And he was in a position of authority.
Another member of the team who is now an Anchorage attorney, Matthew Block, said he did not go out drinking with the other students and did not see anything unusual between Sniffen and White. But upon returning to Anchorage and before the end of the school year, he heard something inappropriate happened involving Sniffen and White.
Block said he had no knowledge of whether they had sex or not, and he said that he did not know that White moved in with Sniffen after graduation. White said that she had sex with Sniffen a few times after returning from New Orleans and before she graduated. White said Sniffen helped her obtain an apartment a few months after graduation by co-ing the lease but pretending to be her uncle to the landlord. White provided copies of letters from two friends that year asking about her ongoing relationship with Sniffen.
Are you still together? Do your parents know? In a two- timeline of events provided to the Daily News and ProPublica, White wrote that between May and October she sometimes went on dates with Sniffen in public but would take her seat first in the movie theater or at a concert, and he would her after the lights went down to avoid being seen together. White turned 18 in October and moved in with Sniffen, she said. White said the relationship with Sniffen continued off and on for two or three years, but she eventually married a man she had dated before Sniffen, and Sniffen married another woman.
White said they moved to Southern California soon after she graduated and did not know about her relationship with Sniffen until recently, when she made the decision to go public. The parents, Mike and Mary Dougherty, provided a short statement by :. Lindemuth, the former Alaska attorney general who promoted Sniffen, said the nature of the allegations against Sniffen gave him little choice but to step aside.
Alex Mierjeski contributed research.
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