Sen. Buckley fires staffer charged with failing to register as sex offender


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ST. CROIX - Sen. Judi Buckley broke her silence about the arrest of one of her staffers on federal charges Wednesday and has moved forward with his termination.

Christopher Barry Mitchell, 44, of Work and Rest, who has worked as a researcher for the senator since January of last year when she took office in the 30th Legislature, made his second appearance before District Magistrate Judge George Cannon on Thursday to request pretrial release under the supervision of a third-party custodian.

On Wednesday, Mitchell was hauled away in handcuffs minutes after federal agents showed up at his office at the V.I. Legislature in Frederiksted.

He made his initial federal court appearance just hours later and was advised of his rights on a single count of failure to register as a sex offender.

In a written statement released Thursday afternoon, Buckley said she was truly saddened by the series of events that took place involving the arrest. She said the allegations against Mitchell are not related to the work done in her office and have no ties to her or her office, but as of Thursday, his employment with her office had been terminated.

Buckley said making any further remarks about the allegations or pending charges or investigation involving Mitchell at this time would be inappropriate and as she had done on Wednesday, referred all other inquiries to V.I. Legislature Executive Director Iver Stridiron.

Appearing before Cannon on Thursday, Mitchell presented his companion Melissa Hall as a proposed third-party custodian while the case against him is pending.

With no objection from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Cannon said the woman would be deemed appropriate.

Mitchell was allowed to continue his release after he and Hall signed an unsecured bond in the amount of bail that had been set at $25,000 and agreed that he would abide by all of the standard conditions of release imposed by the court.

Cannon asked Hall whether she is capable of supervising Mitchell while the case is pending and whether she would be able to turn him in to the court if he violated any of the conditions set by the court.

She answered in the affirmative.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment that charges Mitchell with the single count of failure to register as a sex offender, a violation of federal law.

Mitchell's underlying sex crime stems from a 1998 conviction in Florida for having indecent contact with a girl younger than 16. He was convicted again in 2006 on a charge of failure to register as a sex offender in Okaloosa, Fla., according to court documents.

According to the National Sex Offender Registry, Mitchell began registering after his last conviction up until 2012, when he moved to the territory.

Stridiron said Wednesday that Mitchell lied on his application before he began working for Buckley.

Mitchell specifically was asked on the application whether he had ever been convicted of any sexual offenses against a minor and whether he had ever been convicted of a felony or first-degree misdemeanor and answered in the negative to both, Stridiron said.

It is not yet known whether additional charges of providing false information to the government will be filed against Mitchell.

Stridiron said the Legislature first got wind that something might be wrong when they were contacted last July by an anonymous source. He said they alerted the Justice Department to research the matter and awaited a response, which came on Wednesday with Mitchell's arrest.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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