Former Bethel school principal sentenced to 15 years in prison for enticement of a minor

The playground at the Gladys Jung Elementary School. The school’s principal was charged with possession of child pornography, attempted coercion of a child and sexual abuse of a minor. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

A former Bethel elementary school principal will spend 15 years in prison for trying to entice a child to engage in sexual activity in 2019.

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced 57-year-old Christopher Carmichael in Anchorage on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty in February. Carmichael had faced additional charges of possession of child pornography and attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor, but those were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

Carmichael has also pleaded guilty in state Superior Court to a charge of sexual abuse of a minor, with sentencing that’s set for later this month in Bethel. But under an agreement with prosecutors, that sentence is expected to be served alongside his sentence in federal court.

At Tuesday’s sentencing in Anchorage, a federal prosecutor had argued that Carmichael should have a longer prison sentence, saying the former principal had crafted a relationship between himself and the victim, with whom he’d discussed sex and making pornography.

“He took her childhood away and what he left was a burden nobody should have to feel,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Doty.

Carmichael’s attorney had argued for the 15-year sentence. That argument was based, in part, on a letter of support from Carmichael’s sister, who said she and Carmichael had a traumatic upbringing that included emotional and sexual abuse, starvation and forced isolation.

Carmichael’s attorney, Allen Dayan, also argued that his client had no criminal record prior to the 2019 charges and was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Dayan described Carmichael’s conduct as “reprehensible” but said he did not deserve the prosecution’s recommended 40 years behind bars.

“There’s lots of horrible things that happen and they don’t get 40 years,” Dayan said.

Doty, the prosecutor, told the judge there had been allegations against Carmichael prior to 2019 that had not resulted in criminal charges or action by the Lower Kuskokwim School District.

Law enforcement officers investigated Carmichael in 2016 after a report he had sent a child inappropriate messages on Facebook, and again in 2018, when another child accused him of touching her breast. Prosecutors say neither case yielded enough evidence to prosecute Carmichael.

The victim in the federal case and her mother were in the Anchorage courtroom on Tuesday, and the mother delivered a statement to U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess referencing the earlier accusations.

“While this may be the first time Mr. Carmichael was charged with a crime, my daughter was not his first victim,” she said.

Carmichael, in an orange jumpsuit, removed a mask covering his mouth when it was his turn to speak. He sobbed at times while apologizing to the victim, the entire Bethel community and the school district, which his alleged victims are suing.

“My school district that I worked for for 20 years is in trouble because of me,” he said, crying. “It’s very hard.”

Then, Carmichael mentioned his victim, whom he said “was involved in this situation.”

“My grief for what she’s going through is so severe,” Carmichael said. “I really care about her, and I’m so sorry.”

Judge Burgess agreed with prosecutors that Carmichael had abused the victim’s trust, which he had cultivated, as well as the trust of Bethel residents. Burgess said Carmichael had stolen the victim’s innocence.

Nevertheless, Burgess said, he was required to hand down a sentence that was sufficient but not greater than necessary. He sent Carmichael to prison for 15 years, with no chance for parole in the federal system, and a lifetime of supervised release.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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