DA declines sex assault prosecution for Anchorage Ballet founder
Thursday, the Anchorage District Attorney's Office said they are declining to prosecute the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy founder who had been accused of sexual misconduct by former students.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik said in a letter Thursday the DA's Office would not be pursuing prosecution against 50-year-old Michelangelo Canale because "the State will not be able to prove second and third elements of the crime of Sexual Assault in the First Degree beyond a reasonable doubt."
"This in no way implies that Mr. Canale's conduct is not of concern, but based on my detailed review of the investigation and all available evidence, the state will be unable to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," Grannik continued.
In prosecuting a charge of first-degree sexual assault, the prosecution holds the burden of proving three elements:
- That the offender knowingly engaged in sexual penetration with another person
- The sexual penetration occurred without the consent of the other person
- The offender recklessly disregarded the other person's lack of consent
KTVA first reported that Anchorage Police were investigating Canale back in mid-December. APD spokesperson Nora Morse said then that the Special Victims Unit was investigating a report made on December 14, claiming the assault took place on December 8.
Two now-former ACBA students told KTVA in detail about what they believed was systematic sexual misconduct in an environment that permitted Canale's behavior for years.
Alex Icet, 27, made the initial allegations in a Facebook post on December 14, claiming Canale sexually assaulted her following the first two presentations of The Nutcracker.
Icet told KTVA the assault happened after the reception where she and a group of dancers had been drinking. Icet claims she was intoxicated and accepted a ride home from Canale and another female dancer she trusted.
“I don't know how my tights got off again. I don't know that. I know he started performing oral sex on me without my consent,” she explained, saying her memory of the night is somewhat out of order.
“The woman in the car took notice of my discomfort. She asked me if I was okay, I told her no -- I told her I wanted it to stop, and she told him to stop and he kept going, so she told him to stop again and he stopped in a huff,” said Icet.
Icet says she danced in The Nutcracker the following night, then days later she resigned from the academy.
Icet went on to say that in an environment such as this, unwanted advances happened in a gray area.
"This is someone you pay to correct your body. You're used to them touching you," she said in her interview in December.
Thursday, Icet released the following statement after learning of the DA's decision not to prosecute:
I understand the confines of investigating sexual assault cases, and don't take their decision as a dismissal of what happened. I think sexual predators are, by nature or by practice, adept at navigating the law. I hope that this does not discourage people from speaking out and standing up for themselves. It's not binary, it's not "either this ends in a court case, or it doesn't matter." For my part, I did what I could. I worked with police and press, put myself under public scrutiny to warn the girls and their parents. If you looked solely at the DA's decision, it might feel like it all ended in nothing. But if you look at the court of public opinion--how the dance community who knows him is responding--it's a very different story. […] I feel like people have a fair chance now to make their own decision on whether they trust him as an instructor for themselves or their children, and that's really what I wanted at the end of it all.
Since publicly sharing her story, Icet says others have approached her with their own stories about Canale's alleged sexual misconduct.
Allison Ackles, 19, told KTVA back in December that after more than a decade of involvement with Canale as a student, and then another two as an instructor, she took her concerns about Canale the ACBA Board of Directors months ago but nothing was done. She then resigned.
“The first time he ever said something overtly sexual to me was, I was probably 17. He told me that my intelligence was super sexy and he wished I was older so he could take me on a date,” said Ackles.
She also described an encounter in which she says Canale partially exposed himself to her while they were talking about tattoos.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I don't want to see that,’ and he was like ‘Oh no no, wait come here,’ and he pulls his pants down and he has a scorpion right here and I saw pubic hair and the base of his penis,” said Ackles, saying she was 17 at the time.
She says in her time at the Academy, she's witnessed him speak to and touch minors in a sexually inappropriate way.
“He makes himself seem untouchable, so no one has come forward,” said Ackles.
After APD announced their investigation into Canale, the ACBA Board placed him on administrative leave; a second investigation on the board was launched independently.
According to ACBA Board President Ed Barrington, the academy lost 25 to 30 percent of its enrollment since the first of the year.
Barrington said Friday that he would not be making a statement without consideration of the Board of Directors; a formal statement is forthcoming, he said.
KTVA reached out to Canale for a comment Thursday but he hung up the phone.
Daniella Rivera contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: KTVA does not generally identify victims or alleged victims of sexual assault. In this case, the alleged victim consented to be identified and interviewed related to this story.
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