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Alaska agency goes mum regarding alleged child molester in Bethel

Suzanna Caldwell

The Alaska Office of Children's Services is locking down when it comes to answering questions related to a Bethel man accused of molesting children in his care.

On Tuesday, counsel representing Peter Tony filed a motion in Fairbanks Superior Court asking that the state Office of Children's Services be barred from releasing further statements or records in manners concerning Tony.

The gag order, signed by Tony's attorney Mark Osterman, cites documents released to both Alaska Dispatch and the Anchorage Daily News as harming Tony's right to a fair trial. The filing notes that the “defendant believes that OCS knew or should have known that law enforcement action was underway” and should have prevented disclosure to the media.

In response, OCS Director Christy Lawton said Tuesday that the agency would not immediately answer questions related to the case.

Tony, 69, was charged last month with multiple charges of molesting a 4-year-old girl in his unlicensed day care. Weeks later, he was additionally charged with sexually abusing a foster child in his care in 1998.

Last month, through a Freedom of Information Act request, Alaska Dispatch requested access to Peter and Marilyn Tony's foster care files. In response, the agency released hundreds of pages of documents related to the Tonys' 13 years as foster parents in Bethel, though many documents were withheld and names were redacted, citing confidentiality laws.

Alaska Dispatch found five reports of abuse allegations against Peter Tony within the files. All but one was report was found to be “unsubstantiated,” though no charges were filed against Tony until 2013.

Susan Morgan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Social Services -- which oversees OCS -- declined to comment Tuesday on whether or not the agency would choose to challenge the filing.

Osterman, reached at Alaska’s Office of Public Advocacy in Bethel, refused to confirm or deny whether the OPA was representing Tony and told a reporter: “Please don’t ever contact this office about Peter Tony again.”

Judge Douglas Blankenship had not ruled on the filing as of Tuesday afternoon.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

CORRECTION:  The name of the state agency that oversees the Office of Children's Services is the Department of Health and Social Services, not the Department of Health and Human Services.