State prosecutor's recent resignation was easy way out

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

The recent resignation of Alaska's chief prosecutor Cynthia Cooper comes at the end of much public attention regarding her handling of two controversial cases: the prosecution of an Anchorage assistant public defender and the attempt to prosecute a sex offender in violation of a federal court order. Cooper said she was prompted to resign because "intense media coverage of the (Wally) Tetlow case had impaired her effectiveness."

Earlier this year, Anchorage District Attorney Susan Parkes transferred the Tetlow case to the Palmer district attorney's office for resolution. Moving the case to Palmer presented a chance, months ago, to prevent the "intense" media coverage Cooper recently complained about. Cooper would have appeared fair-minded if she had followed through with the decision to take such a potentially volatile case out of the hands of Anchorage prosecutors who regularly argue against Tetlow and other assistant public defenders.

Yet, after Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak and Assistant District Attorney Bill Estelle were resolving the case with Tetlow's attorney as a misdemeanor, Cooper took the case back and gave it again to Anchorage prosecutors, who gained a felony indictment.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link decided that the Tetlow affair indicated maliciousness on Cooper's part. He ruled that she had not been forthcoming in her statements that the Anchorage DA's office was handling the Tetlow case like any other case, that the case against him warranted misdemeanor, not felony, charges.

Prior to Link's ruling, U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland took Cooper to task for attempting to prosecute a sex-offender case involving one of the plaintiffs in the original Doe v. Otte case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holland ruled Cooper's statements were "inconsistent" with fact. Cooper argued she had ordered prosecutors to stay cases in which sex offenders were convicted prior to the Alaska Sex Offender Registry Act was enacted in August 1994.

Two different judges, two similar rulings. Cooper showed she wants to do things her own way -- which in these cases, is in violation of clearly stated laws.

Instead of taking the high road by apologizing for her actions, Cooper blames the media for decisions she made as a high-ranking public official. In avoiding responsibility she makes it clear her resignation was not the right thing -- Attorney General Bruce Botelho, Cooper's boss, should have fired her, not flattered her with remarks that she was "one of the most ethical people I know." Clearly Cooper's ethics on the witness stand in those two cases were less than exemplary.

--Frontiersman (Wasilla)

April 12

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