‘Shock. Disbelief. Then Anger.’ Bethel rocked by assault allegation against well-liked lawmaker

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BETHEL, Alaska (KTUU) - On 3rd Avenue, his storefront ringed with football photos and moose memorabilia, barber Stan Corp says he will just wait and see.

The Legislative Information office in Bethel, Alaska.

“I don’t think he abused his power as a legislator. I think he just screwed up after he drank too much,” Corp said Monday as news of the criminal investigation into Democratic Rep. Zach Fansler rippled across town. “It should be due process. You don’t know the whole story until you dig deep.”

Elsewhere in this Western Alaska hub, voters say the Juneau Empire’s detailed account of an alleged drunken attack by Fansler -- followed by the lawmaker’s apologetic texts -- left little room for doubt. Fansler’s colleagues in the House Majority have called for him to step down. Bev Hoffman, who helped to organize the Bethel women’s march, agrees.

“You read the texts and you see the pictures of the ruptured eardrum,” Hoffman said. “It was so bothersome and I think a lot of us feel, 'Yes Zach, you need to resign.'”

As of Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed against Fansler. His attorney, Wallace Tetlow, told KYUK the accusations are not true. “If charges are filed, we’ll deal with those successfully in court,” Tetlow told the Bethel-based radio station.

A former Kuskokwim 300 race director and former volunteer and legal advocate for the Tundra Women’s Coalition, the 39-year-old is generally well-regarded in the region, Corp said. Hoffman, who supported Fansler’s opponent in the last election, said Fansler had won fans as an energetic addition to the House Democrats.

Now, Hoffman said, the debate over who should replace Fansler has already begun.

In a written statement, the women’s coalition expressed disappointment in Fansler and praised the woman who reported the attack to police: "TWC is terribly disappointed to hear these allegations about someone who both worked at and supported TWC and represented our region as an elected official. We do not condone what Representative Fansler is alleged to have done, and are thankful that the individual who disclosed that she was harmed felt comfortable coming forward. No one should experience the behavior that was reported.”

Sexual assault rates in Western Alaska – including the more than 50 villages Fansler represents – are by far the highest in the state.

Joe Moses Jr. says he hosted a morning radio show with Fansler and found him to be personable. A nice guy. But given the assault accusations, Moses said he too thinks Fansler should resign.

“Other people who have committed similar types of crimes or allegations, they did step down,” Moses said. “He’s not the first, he’s not the last.”

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