Alaska assistant attorney general removed from caseload pending investigation into racist tweets

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An assistant attorney general for Alaska has been removed from his caseload pending the outcome of an investigation by the state after a report by The Guardian named him as the user behind a white-supremacist twitter account.

Matthias Cicotte remains employed and has been assigned to other administrative duties, according to a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law.

A report published by The Guardian this week claims Cicotte is a “supporter of the Mormon-derived extremist group the Deseret nationalists who has posted a series of racist, antisemitic and homophobic messages on social media.” It describes the group as “a loose association of rightwing Mormons,” some of whom “advocate the creation of a theocratic secessionist Mormon state.”

The report is referring to tweets posted by an account with the user name J Reuben Clark and the Twitter handle @JReubenClark, which it describes as “one of the earliest and most prominent accounts to promote Deseret nationalism on Twitter using hashtags like #DeseretNationalism and #DezNat.”

“Since-deleted tweets archived by anti-fascists reveal that he advocated various extreme positions including the summary imprisonment of Black Lives Matter protesters; vigilante violence against leftwing groups; and a punishment of execution for acts including performing gender reassignment surgery,” the report states.

It goes on to list “evidence” of Cicotte’s identity found in posts made by the user of the account, information gathered by anti-fascist researchers which The Guardian says was “confirmed and augmented” by its own investigation.

Cicotte serves as an assistant attorney general in the Torts and Worker’s Compensation Section and much of his work focuses on the Alaska Department of Corrections, according to an emailed statement from DOL Deputy Attorney General Cori Mills on Friday.

“Since this involves personnel issues, we are very limited by law in our ability to comment further,” Mills wrote.

Mills provided a copy of a message Attorney General Treg Taylor sent to Department of Law employees Thursday, in which he calls the tweets in question deeply troubling and offensive.

“All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Taylor wrote. “The contemptuous views expressed in these tweets, which are based solely on the race, religion, sex, and political identity of others, fall very far from that standard.”

In the message, Taylor thanked the employees who have picked up Cicotte’s cases for the time being and said the department is working with the state Division of Personnel and Labor Relations to conduct an investigation into the claims in the report by The Guardian.

“Since this involves personnel issues and an ongoing investigation, I cannot comment further, but I want to assure the Department that I do not share or condone the personal views espoused by the subject Twitter handle or in other posts using #deznat,” Taylor wrote.

Friday, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska Spokesperson Megan Edge called the report shocking.

“The statements that The Guardian revealed were horrific and bigoted,” she said. “Some comments were aimed directly at incarceration and criminal prosecution, you know, they suggested that Black Lives Matter protesters and unhoused mentally ill people should be in prison, and that doctors who provide gender affirming care should be killed by the state. I mean these are just outrageous, horrific comments.”

Edge previously worked for the Department of Corrections, and said she’s familiar with Cicotte’s role.

“As chief counsel for the Department of Corrections, I think we have to recognize that, you know, he acts on behalf of the state in cases against people who are incarcerated, which is a population of people that often represents themselves in court proceedings past their sentencing,” she said. “It’s also disproportionately people of color.”

The ACLU of Alaska, which has long fought for the First Amendment and free speech rights of citizens, including state employees, is calling on the the state to conduct a transparent audit of all of Cicotte’s cases.

“The ACLU always has and always will fiercely defend first amendment rights,” Edge said. “All state employees have a constitutional right to free speech and association ... we have to acknowledge, though, that the statements that were made are allegedly made by the person who faces people of color, incarcerated individuals, people who don’t often have other legal representation. That cannot be ignored. So we really need an investigation and an audit of his cases, because yes, there are first amendment rights here, however, these comments though make us question the extent to which those bigoted ideas are reflected in his professional conduct, given his role and involvement in cases where the civil rights of incarcerated people are at stake.”

Efforts to reach Cicotte for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

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