Two prosecutors have resigned from the V.I. Department of Justice, Government House confirmed Wednesday, adding to an already fluid personnel situation in a department that has seen three attorneys general in three weeks.
Meanwhile, acting V.I. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards sought to dispel rumors that he too is resigning, by issuing a statement assuring the public he is staying.
Long-time prosecutor Douglas Sprotte resigned his position Tuesday as a senior criminal prosecutor with the Virgin Islands Department of Justice. Wednesday, criminal prosecutor Hillary Krepistman also resigned, and Gov. Kenneth Mapp accepted both resignations, Government House spokesperson Kimberly Jones confirmed Wednesday evening.
Sprotte has been prosecuting high profile cases in the Virgin Islands for many years. As V.I. assistant attorney general he was the prosecuting attorney in 2000 for the government in the case against former Gov. Roy L. Schneider. (See related link below)
Sprotte found out this week that he had been moved from criminal prosecution to the Division of Paternity and Child Support, which led to his resignation. In his letter of resignation to acting Attorney General Terri Griffiths, Sprotte said he was surprised to find out about the reassignment and that it was not a good career move for him after 27 years as a criminal prosecutor.
"As a 27-year prosecutor, with jury selections scheduled next week, you can imagine what a surprise this is to me," Sprotte said in his resignation letter. "I understand that the office must do what it feels best for the majority of its staff as well as the people of the Virgin Islands, but I must also consider the effects on my own career," he continued.
Messages left for Griffiths requesting comment were not returned as of 9 p.m.
Asked about Sprotte’s and Krepistman’s resignations Wednesday, Jones said she understands "they both submitted resignations and the resignations were accepted."
"I don’t know if or why he was transferred. But I do know this administration is taking a very strong stand on paternity and child support and there is a tremendous amount of dollars not being paid," Jones said. "I think it was the intention for the attorney general to place someone with experience and knowledge – especially experience in litigation – in that position and really make it a priority for Justice," she said.
When asked how moving someone with decades of criminal trial experience out of criminal trials and into a post for which he has no experience and does not want would help, Jones said she believed the rationale was to "take one of our experienced attorneys and put him in charge of that."
"I did not make the decision," Jones said when asked how it helped if the end result was losing two prosecutors and not getting anyone in the Paternity Division. "But I can understand the need for someone with vast experience to lead this charge," she added.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer departed the department Jan. 5 as the Mapp administration came into office, replaced by St. Thomas attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Soraya Diase-Coffelt. Diase-Coffelt resigned less than two weeks later, on Jan. 15. According to Government House, Diase-Coffelt cited "a staffing conflict with personnel assembled by the administration."
Asked about the level of turmoil and upheaval in the Justice Department, Jones said the department would emerge re-invigorated after a shake-up.
"You have to look at the positive. … Justice is going to be brand new with a fresh outlook and new focus in the next six months," she said.
Wayne Anderson, another experienced criminal prosecutor was terminated last week.
Meanwhile Richards, the acting police commissioner, will remain on the job, despite rumors to the contrary, according to a statement from Richards.
"I don’t normally respond to rumors, but it is imperative that I clarify this as soon as possible. I remain at the helm of the VIPD. I have not resigned. I continue to work every day with the men and women of this department on a number of issues currently facing us," Richards said in a statement.
Richards went on to say he is active and happy in the job and with his colleagues.
“I am actively involved in every aspect of the department and I am pleased with the level of cooperation I am receiving from both inside and outside the VIPD," he said.