Shades of Gray: House bill raises age of consent, but there’s a loophole for child sex offenders on parole

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A bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday that would raise the age of sexual consent to 18; the current legal age is 16. The bill will be on the House calendar for a third reading and final vote on Monday.

House Bill 264 passed on a vote of 32-6. If passed by the Senate, Alaska would become the 13th state to have 18 as the age of consent, joining Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

The bill was originally about sexual abuse of minors, requiring shelters for runaway minors to screen minors for victimization relating to sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation. Then the amendments came.

The kink in the bill is the amendment Rep. Andrew Gray earlier tried to wedge into House Bill 67, another bill related to sexual offenders, but he was stymied because legislators remarked that it would change the fiscal note. This time, Gray succeeded on the floor of the House in a new bill. And the Anchorage Democrat got the job done with a handwritten amendment.

The new standard would mean that an adult could be convicted of sexual abuse of a minor for having sex with a high school student who is 17 years and 11 months of age. That’s first-degree abuse of a minor, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. It would include a high school senior having sex with another high school junior or senior.

“My amendment (much smaller than what I wanted — I could only write so fast) did not change ‘close in age’ exemption which in Alaska is 4 years (older or younger). The amendment I did was to first degree sexual assault which requires the older person to be in a position of authority like a teacher or law enforcement officer — it is unlikely that folks who have achieved that position would be within four years of a 16 or 17 year old,” Gray said in an explanation.

There is, however, an issue with this amendment which has not been addressed yet in the State House. The bill creates a conflict with existing parole agreements for sex offenders. 

The problem is exemplified in the case of Evan Fischer, who was the former owner/manager of Frontier Tutoring, the man for whom Rep. Calvin Schrage worked as executive director before going into politics. 

In 2017 Fischer was convicted and sentenced to 23 years with 11 years suspended for collecting and distributing child sexual exploitation materials (child pornography) as well as sexual abuse of a 15 year old who was not a Frontier Tutoring student, but a student in the Anchorage School District. 

Fischer was paroled in 2023 after serving only six years of his 23-year sentence. During parole negotiations, Fischer’s legal counsel argued “the States restricts the age of people who the defendant can be in contact with as 18, but this also is already set in his special conditions, as 16. Since they conflict and 16 is the standard all sexual offenders are required to adhere to the defendant believes 16 is appropriate.”

Evan Fischer’s argument in favor of being able to have contact with 16-year-olds, agreed to by the judge in his parole contract.

The State agreed with Fischer’s arguments, and released him early with full permission to use social media services to seek contact with children 16 and older if he so pleases. As noted by Fischer’s legal counsel, the State of Alaska views this arrangement to be “the standard.”

At the time of Fischer’s trial in 2017 Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Aliberti stated that Fischer “was the most dangerous and reprehensible type of sexual predator. Mr. Fischer presented himself as one who was interested in bettering the lives of the community’s youth, when in actuality he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a man who used his authority to gain access and control over a minor to satisfy his own sexual interest. An appropriate sentence in this case is one that is severe enough that it not only protects the community from Mr. Fischer but sends a message to all those who would think about using their positions of authority to sexually abuse and sexually exploit minors that this is not tolerated in the State of Alaska.” 

Rep. Schrage, who worked for Fischer, voted in favor of this amendment, which also has an allowance for an 18-year-old to marry and have sex with a 16-year-old.

The amendment to HB 264 increasing the age of consent has not addressed how existing parole contracts would be affected. Rep. Gray’s amendment may have a mixed message, in that the state is exerting authority in cracking down on high school sweethearts while simultaneously allowing convicted child rapists to have “contact” with 16-year-olds, since the parole agreement notes that is the age of consent.

The bill may be especially hard on Alaska Native villages, where sexual activity between minors and adults is a known problem. If the bill passes, villages may end up losing many more of their men to prison; Alaska Natives already comprise 47% of the sexual assault arrests in the state, while representing 20% of the population.

According to a state report issued in 2019, Alaska Native females were reported to have the highest victimization rate of any gender or racial group, comprising 50.4% of all reported victims. The median age of female victims was 18, while the most common age was 15. The median age of male victims was 10, while the most common age was 5. In the reported relationships between the victims and suspects, 11% identified the suspect as a stranger. With victims under the age of 11, less than 2% of the reported relationship involved a stranger, whereas 17% of victims aged 18 and over reported the suspect was a stranger.

“There are a lot more child sexual abuse cases than are being reported,” said child psychologist Dolores Subia BigFoot, who directs the Native American Programs at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, as quoted by the Tucson Weekly. “There’s a lot of child sexual abuse cases that are not being investigated, and there’s a lot of child sexual abuse cases that are not being prosecuted.”

11 COMMENTS

  1. Alaskans have poor judgement and poorer judge of character. If you men looked into New Life’s Every Man’s Battle and had met in weekly small group meetings to talk and form friendships, then less of Alaska’s men be less likely falling into sexual temptation. When men do find a girlfriend she not be young or immature or crazy who’d turn in him for sexual assault charge. Him understanding the power of sexual temptation he’d make better choices before that protect him and the female around him like Evan should had not been alone with the female or had alone online communication with the female, their parent should been in the same room and any online correspondence someone else was attached within the messaging. Its common sense and common knowledge you are the opposite gender then you bring someone with you when meeting with an opposite gender.
    This is one of the most common ways a man finds trouble when he is alone with a female not his wife. He protects himself and the other female when he has someone else in the same room. Besides children shouldn’t be alone with other adults not their parent until firm trust is established. However this is Alaska and too many parents here have poor judge of character, so poor Alaskan kids having to be born here, their likelihood is getting hurt while living on Alaska.

  2. Iwhen I was elementary age my mother trustingly dropped me off at our Juneau public library for a summer tutoring session. Later the young man in his twenties before taking me home he had to stop off at home where he was sharing a Douglas, Juneau home with a group of other young men all room mating, he said I could go inside with him and wait even the other young men were urging trying to lure me in with icecream. I see all those young men and stayed out on the lawn moved back to the car staying out on the sidewalk. I couldn’t trust men because of I didn’t have a dad and not comfortable around men. I say this to share how dumb and ignorant Alaskans are I would never leave my own child with an adult even a tutor. Even for my young adult tutor he shouldn’t had set himself up to take me home after session, he was setting himself up for temptation as well as potential legal actions. We were all lucky nothing worse happened. It’s better judgement not to be alone with the opposite gender especially a child included those adults with handicaps or mental retardation you know people who are slow and make them vulnerable.

  3. The difficult statistics in this story underscore an unspoken epidemic of abuse in Western/Bush Alaska especially. Promoting addition funding for schools in many rural areas is subsidizing such. It’s time that Alaska relook the entire School System, especially in Rural Education Attendance Areas (REAA’s/non-borough).

    In the ’70s many kids from rural areas were brought to Kenai (possibly other Districts?) and lived in group homes while attending schools here. It’s not a perfect model, but there should be no doubt that the current systems is broken and beyond repair.

  4. So a 18 yr old boy and a 17yr 11 mo old girl have sex, the parents find out and he’s a convicted felon for the rest of his life. I just can’t get behind this. If some can figure out an age differential equation that makes sense as well as explicitly banning it when a person of authority is involved then fine. Otherwise we are just sending more young men to jail where they will usually be ruined for life. Pray thi sdoesn’t pass.

  5. When the amendment was being debated there was a lot of talk in the legislature about whether or not to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18, and Rep. Gray has written a bill for that purpose, but the amendment that we passed in the house is different from the bill.

    At best, it raises the age of consent in one specific subsection of state law. It might result in raising the age of consent more generally if legislators make future changes to conform other laws to the amendment, and maybe they should make those changes, but the amendment itself doesn’t accomplish any of those changes on its own.

    For better or worse, the only portion of state law the amendment changes is AS 11.41.434(a)(3). That is the specific situation when the offender has authority over the victim, has sex with the victim, and the victim is 16 or 17. Specifically, the law states that this only applies when the victim lives in the same house as the offender and the offender has legal authority over the victim, or they don’t live in the same house, but the offender holds a position of authority (e.g. teacher, tutor, pastor, prison guard, etc.) over the victim.

    So the situation of a 17-year-old and 18-year-old is only impacted if the 18-year-old is hired as a school teacher, tutor, etc., and the 17-year-old is still a student in his class. It is not enough to have met in his class and formed a relationship in his class. They must have had sex while the student was still in his class (or an inmate in the prison he works in, etc.).

    Here is what the law currently says:

    “Sec. 11.41.434. Sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree.
    (a) An offender commits the crime of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree if…
    (3) being 18 years of age or older, the offender engages in sexual penetration with a person who is under 16 years of age, and
    (A) the victim at the time of the offense is residing in the same household as the offender and the offender has authority over the victim; or
    (B) the offender occupies a position of authority in relation to the victim.”

    Rep. Gray’s amendment changes “16” to “18” in the above statute. I supported the change.

  6. After witnessing Andrews testimony complaining about the librarians efforts to properly withhold inappropriate queer porn from the public library gave us all the information we needed to ban the use of the entire library just knowing he was a regular at that taxpayer funded adult bookstore.

    Most definitely not a safe space for children of any age. There are way too many shades of Gray to understand what his real motives are regarding any of his flatulence.

  7. This change in the law is a terrible idea. A lot of people must be shielding their minds from the memory of what they were like as teenagers.

    If everything everyone has ever done sexually in his or her life were suddenly to be broadcast, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, there wouldn’t be enough taxpayers left to keep the lights on at the prosecutor’s office. And there probably wouldn’t be any prosecutors left either.

    The teenage years are hard enough without the wrecking ball of big government doing its worst, prosecuting cases where there is no true victim.

  8. “The bill may be especially hard on Alaska Native villages, where sexual activity between minors and adults is a known problem. If the bill passes, villages may end up losing many more of their men to prison.”

    That is too bad. Men of any race/tribe should not be having sex with minors and those that do must face the consequences of their actions regardless of where they live. The remainder of the village not standing up for the minors with their silence on the matter by not calling law enforcement are enabling these predators.

  9. I am so happy to see this happening. My own family member was a victim and that 42 year old pedo is loose today because he groomed her at 15 and assualted her at 16.

    Because she was 16, the Troopers said it would be too hard to prosecute, he claimed it was mutual.

    He is from Bethel but lives in Wasilla. He is a sexual predator on the loose.

    He is also a disgraced Marine.

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