Crime & Courts

Former Alaska state trooper found guilty of attempted sexual abuse of a minor

A former Alaska State Trooper was found guilty Friday of attempted sexual abuse of a minor stemming from a 2018 incident in which he showed up to a hotel date to meet with a 16-year-old girl, state prosecutors said.

Vance Peronto, now 62, had pulled the teen over on the Kenai Spur Highway for driving without headlights in April 2018, and began messaging her on social media shortly afterward. Prosecutors said at the time that Peronto and the girl exchanged “very explicit” and sexual messages.

The contact between Peronto and the girl was reported to troopers later that month, and investigators pretending to be the teen arranged to meet Peronto — still a trooper at the time — at a hotel room in Anchorage. Peronto showed up to the arranged meeting in his patrol car, and was arrested and charged.

On Friday, Peronto was convicted of one count of second-degree attempted sexual abuse of a minor. The Anchorage jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on two additional counts of possessing child pornography, the Alaska Department of Law said in a Friday statement.

According to the law department, evidence presented during the trial that began in early March “established that Peronto took a substantial step toward engaging” in sex with a minor, while being in a position of authority.

A 16-year veteran of the state’s public safety agency, Peronto worked as a trooper in Kotzebue and in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and was stationed in Soldotna at the time of his arrest.

A sentencing hearing for Peronto is forthcoming, and he will face between two and 12 years in prison, the Department of Law said.

“The Alaska State Troopers cannot allow anyone, especially a law enforcement officer, to abuse their power and violate the trust of the community as Vance Peronto did,” James Cockrell, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said in the statement.