Crime & Courts

Former Alaska assistant district attorney sues state over alleged harassing texts from trooper

A former assistant district attorney's lawsuit against the state alleges her bosses fired her because she filed a sexual harassment complaint against an Alaska State Trooper.

Florina Altshiler filed the lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court last week, more than two years after the alleged harassment.

Altshiler worked as a state prosecutor in the Special Assaults Unit from September 2012 to June 2014, handling more than 20 trials involving property, drug and sexual assault crimes, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Near the end of her time as an Alaska prosecutor, Altshiler attended training for the job. The lawsuit doesn't indicate the subject of the training. It was there that she "received a number of text messages that were sexual in nature from an Alaska State Trooper who was also attending the training," according to the lawsuit.

The trooper goes unnamed in the court filing.

She filed a formal complaint about the texts and took part in an investigation. Her superiors at the Alaska Department of Law requested Altshiler turn over her cellphone for a forensic examination of all its contents, according to the lawsuit.

Altshiler refused.

"Although (Altshiler) agreed to provide all relevant text messages, (she) declined to turn over her personal cellphone for a forensic examination of the contents" of the phone, the lawsuit says.

Altshiler, who now works as a senior associate at the New York law firm Russo & Toner, asserts she was retaliated against for filing the initial complaint and for refusing to hand over her phone. Her bosses terminated her for those reasons, according to the lawsuit.

She filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2015. In late June, the federal commission provided her a "right to sue letter," the lawsuit says.

She is asking for an award for damages in excess of $100,000.

Altshiler is represented locally by attorneys Daniel Pace and Christopher Hoke, of Pace Law Offices. They said in an email they had no comment about the case.

Cori Mills, a law department spokeswoman, said the complaint has not been served on the state. She said the department will file its response after reviewing the allegations — it has 40 days to do so after being served.

"The Department generally does not comment on matters in active litigation and personnel actions are confidential," she said, but added, "The Department does not tolerate sexual harassment and takes all complaints of sexual harassment seriously."

When asked if state prosecutors generally ask complainants to hand over devices for full forensic reviews if the device has evidence pertinent to a case, Mills said the DOL seeks complete and thorough investigations in both the criminal cases it prosecutes and any personnel matter "before any action is taken."

"What constitutes a complete and thorough investigation must be determined on a case-by-case basis given the individual facts and circumstances of that particular matter," she said.