Assault survivor’s family alleges racism in Bethel courts
This story originates from KYUK Public Media and was published with permission.
BETHEL — The family of a sexual assault survivor brought allegations of racial preference by the justice system to a sentencing hearing in Bethel.
At the sentencing hearing of former Bethel police officer Aaron Fedolfi on Tuesday, a debate about race and how it may have influenced his case broke out between the survivor’s family and his defense team.
The State of Alaska has charged Fedolfi with one count of third-degree attempted sexual assault and one count of official misconduct after he attempted to force a Bethel woman to perform a sexual act on him while on duty.
Tuesday, the state sentenced him to one year in prison— a sentence which his survivor’s family said is not harsh enough.
“The seriousness was not taken into account because of the misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges,” the survivor’s father, who will remain unnamed for his protection, said.
The family requested the court charge Fedolfi with a felony. But the court ruled to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor.
The survivor’s father said Fedolfi got a light sentence because he’s not from Bethel, he’s rich, but most of all because he’s white. The survivor’s mother said she agrees with her husband.
“We’re all human beings, we deserve to be treated just like everybody else,” she said.
Bethel lawyer Heather Sia consulted the survivor’s family throughout the trail. Her remarks before the sentencing hit on similar racial themes.
“We’re sick of it. You have white teachers. You have white cops. You have white priests that are coming into this area. And they get away with it,” Sia said.
Though Fedolfi did not respond to these comments, his attorney, James Christie, said in his opening remarks that Sia’s words were some of the most offensive he’d heard in a courtroom.
“We’re not punishing Mr. Fedolfi for being white, and we’re not here to set an example for all white people by punishing Mr. Fedolfi. That’s not what this system of justice is about,” Christie said.
Fedolfi’s sentence comes on the heels of a national spotlight on race and police misconduct. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant Attorney General of the State of Alaska Adam Alexander, said these events shake the trust survivors and communities hold in the police force.
“The punishment, from my personal perspective, is not always proportionate to the degree of harm that’s inflicted upon a victim,” Alexander said.
Fedolfi will be remanded in Anchorage at the end of the week, where he will begin his sentence. Fedolfi’s attorney said his client will leave Alaska after completing his sentence and finish his parole in Florida.
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