The Alaska Department of Law said Thursday it is removing assistant attorney general Matthias Cicotte from legal cases as it investigates whether he is the person behind a white supremacist Twitter account that supports the creation of an independent Mormon nation in Utah.
The investigation began after The Guardian, using evidence provided by “anti-fascist researchers” and verified by its own reporters, prepared a story identifying Cicotte as the person behind the account, which uses a fake name.
“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 story said.
Cicotte works in the section of the Department of Law that provides legal assistance to the Alaska Department of Corrections. The department has not said whether Cicotte has been suspended, but in a brief statement Thursday, department spokeswoman Grace Lee said Cicotte “has been removed from his caseload and his status with the department is subject to change at any time as the investigation continues.”
On Thursday, online court records still listed Cicotte as a participating attorney in several federal cases.
Elizabeth Fleming, the defense attorney in one of those cases, said she had little interaction with Cicotte and is concerned that someone with racist and homophobic views is representing the state of Alaska.
But “he’s got a right to his opinions,” she said, and she doesn’t believe he should lose his job unless it affected his work because his opinions are protected by the First Amendment.
“If it’s not affecting his job, he can express those opinions just like I can express my — rather left-wing — opinions,” she said.
The Alaska Constitution and state law protect the privacy of individual state employees, and the Department of Law has declined to discuss the investigation into Cicotte’s statements. Lee, the spokeswoman for the Department of Law, said she did not know whether Cicotte has been suspended or what he might be doing now that his court cases have been reassigned.
Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and said he isn’t planning a hearing or investigation into the issue at this point.
If he called a hearing, he said, “we would be told (by the Department of Law) that ‘this is a personnel matter, we can’t say anything,’” he said.
Claman said that the ongoing investigation does raise the question of whether Alaskans should have a better idea of what policies are in place for Department of Law employees, who frequently argue in court on behalf of the state but may have different personal opinions.
Earlier this year, the state settled a lawsuit brought by an attorney who said she was fired at the start of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration because of her political views. Two similar cases, involving another attorney and two psychiatrists, are proceeding in federal court.