Former Bethel elementary principal Chris Carmichael pleads guilty to federal charges

The playground at the Gladys Jung Elementary School on March 16. The school’s principal was charged with possession of child pornography, attempted coercion of a child and sexual abuse of a minor. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

Former Bethel elementary school principal Christopher Carmichael, arrested in December 2019 by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, has pleaded guilty to federal charges of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. The plea agreement was entered into court record Nov. 6.

A federal grand jury had previously indicted Carmichael, former principal at Gladys Jung Elementary School, on three other charges, including a second count of attempted coercion of a minor, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor. Those three charges will be dropped in the plea deal. Court records stated that Carmichael pleaded guilty to knowingly attempting to persuade, induce, entice or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

In June 2019, Bethel Police received information that a 14-year-old girl claimed that Carmichael had sexually molested her. Police investigated by posing as that girl’s 13-year-old cousin and messaging Carmichael online. According to a police affidavit, the former principal sent sexually explicit messages and asked to meet up in Anchorage with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl but was actually a member of the police.

The maximum penalty for the charges Carmichael is pleading guilty to includes no less than 10 years and up to life in prison and a fine of $250,000. He will also have to register as a sex offender.

The state has separately charged Carmichael for two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Those charges are still moving their way through court, and Carmichael’s next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17, 2020.

Attorneys for four girls have also filed lawsuits against the Lower Kuskokwim School District, claiming that LKSD failed to protect them from sexual abuse at Carmichael’s hands. Jury trials for those lawsuits are scheduled for the fall of 2021.