A “sex-crimes expert” from the state of New York has filed a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court claiming she was fired from her job as a 49th state prosecutor because she complained of being sexually harassed by an Alaska State Trooper.
In the case filed Wednesday in Anchorage, Florina Altshiler contends she received “a number of text messages that were sexual in nature” while attending training with the unnamed trooper.
Altshiler was at the time a member of the Anchorage Special Assault Unit which devoted a team of prosecutors to sex crimes.
She complained to her bosses about the text messages and agreed to turn them over to investigators.
They, however, wanted more.
Altshiler’s “supervisors at the State of Alaska, Department of Law requested that the plaintiff turn over her personal cell phone for a forensic examination of all contents contained on her personal cell phone,” the suit says.
The suit contends that either that, the initial complaint, the participation in the investigation or possibly all three eventually led to her firing.
“Because plaintiff filed the sexual harassment complaint and/or participated in the sexual harassment investigation, defendant retaliated against plaintiff by terminating her,” the suit says.
Altshiler’s Linkedin profile says she worked in the Special Assaults Unit for a little under two years from 2012 to 2014. She is now a senior associate at the New York law firm Russo & Toner, an adjunct professor at a couple of Buffalo, N.Y. area universities, and a sometimes legal analyst for the ABC News affiliate in Buffalo.
The Buffalo News in a March profile, part of a series of stories the newspaper is doing on successful local millennials, described the 34-year-old Altshiler as something of a local celebrity making “herself visible, showing her photography in art exhibits, writing for local publications and appearing in the media as a sex-crimes expert. (The News used her as a source in coverage of the investigations of hockey players Evander Kane and Patrick Kane.)”
The story written by Tim O’Shei does not mention Altshiler experiencing any problems with the Alaska Department of Law, but it did dig down into the problems of someone fleeing the congestion of the city expecting an outdoor nirvana in the north only to run into some of Alaska’s dark realities.
“Once, after a two-week rape trial resulted in a guilty finding by the jury, Altshiler slipped into the bathroom and cried,” O’Shei writes. “She had done her job well, and the man convicted was facing a minimum of 25 years.
“’I convinced these people that he did it,’ Altshiler said, ‘and I don’t know if he did.’
“She didn’t know whether the man was innocent, either. The details of exactly what happened were muddy. ‘It was a ‘he said-she said,’ and it’s a ‘she doesn’t even know what she said,’ because she wasn’t conscious. She was drunk. So it was just very’ – Altshiler lets silence take over for a moment – ‘heavy.'”
“Altshiler’s Alaskan experience was saturated with irony. On the job, she dealt with shadows darker than the long Alaskan winter days. On her off time, she hiked, biked, skied and kayaked in a setting wrapped with storybook beauty.”
The irony appears to be continuing still. Altshiler is now in another he said-she said situation, although the Department of Law is at the moment saying nothing.
Spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder Friday said the department couldn’t comment on an active case. The department only recently got a new boss, Jahna Lindemuth, only the second woman to be named Alaska Attorney General in the state’s 57-year history.
The lawsuit says Altwiler filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March of last year and was issued a right-to-sue letter in June of this year. She’s asking for a minimum of $100,000 in damages, plus attorney fees, for the loss of wages and emotional stress.
Alaska’s problems with sex crimes are well known. The state has longest had the highest rate of rapes in the nation.