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Crime & Courts

Former Bethel principal accused of trying to send sexual messages to underage girl pleads guilty to federal charge

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: February 18
  • Published February 18

A former Bethel elementary school principal pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of attempted coercion of a minor for his attempts to exchange sexually explicit messages with an underage girl.

In June 2019, a 14-year-old girl told investigators that Christopher Carmichael, now 56, had molested her. During the investigation, an FBI agent posed as a 13-year-old girl and messaged Carmichael.

Christopher Carmichael (Photo via Gladys Jung Elementary School website)

Carmichael was a principal at Gladys Jung Elementary School, home to roughly 330 students from third to sixth grade.

Carmichael exchanged detailed, sexually explicit messages with who he believed to be the 13-year-old girl and asked her to meet him in Anchorage, federal charging documents said. Prior to the exchange of those messages, he had repeatedly touched another student inappropriately after she had completed elementary school, according to charges.

During interviews with FBI agents, Carmichael had admitted he was sexually attracted to “children who are beginning puberty and pubescent,” according to charges.

Since the investigation, four girls have filed lawsuits against the Lower Kuskokwim School District because they said the district failed to protect them from sexual abuse. The cases are scheduled to go to trial this fall.

An investigation by the Anchorage Daily News, KYUK Public Media and ProPublica found that at least twice during the four years prior to Carmichael’s arrest, parents had complained to police about him. Regardless of the prior misconduct investigations, a superintendent for the district said Carmichael’s arrest came as a shock to him and others in the community. Only after the arrest was Carmichael fired.

The former principal is also facing state charges on two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. He is scheduled to change his plea in that case in March.

On Thursday, Carmichael appeared by video in federal court and pleaded guilty to a single charge of attempted coercion of a minor. He’d also been indicted on three other charges — possession of child pornography, attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor and another count of attempted coercion of a minor — but those charges were dropped due to a plea agreement that was filed in November.

A sentencing hearing was not scheduled Thursday, but Carmichael faces a minimum 10-year prison sentence and could receive up to a life sentence for the crime.