An Akiachak teacher has been charged with sexually assaulting minors. According to State Troopers, John Mark Hammonds was arrested at his residence in Akiachak on Oct. 17. This marks the fourth time the Yupiit School district has seen allegations like this in the past decade.
Hammonds is being charged with eight counts of felony sexual assault. Five of those counts involve the alleged assault of a victim under the age of 13, and three involve the alleged assault of a victim under the age of 16.
Hammonds has been assigned a public defender to represent him. The managing attorney for the Bethel Public Defender Agency, Nathaniel Hainje, said that a specific attorney has not yet been assigned to the case. He would not give further comment.
Hammonds was working for the Akiachak school when he was arrested. Yupiit School District Superintendent Scott George Ballard said that the district is aware of the allegations against Hammonds and is cooperating with Alaska State Troopers.
The Yupiit School District has had to navigate sexual assault cases before. The tiny district encompasses three villages: Akiachak, Akiak, and Tuluksak. It has seen three other major sexual abuse cases over the past decade.
In 2014, the district settled a $2 million civil suit against a teacher. The suit alleged that he raped nine female students. The Anchorage Daily News reported that the district tried to keep the allegations a secret. The teacher was never prosecuted and never went to jail.
Also in 2014, a teacher in Akiachak alleged that the district failed to protect her from being raped in her home. She said that the district gave her housing with no locks. She said that she was consistently sexually harassed at her home, and when she repeatedly asked the school for more secure housing she was denied. Eventually, the teacher was raped while unconscious in her home.
In 2018, a teacher in Tuluksak was sentenced for possessing child pornography.
Hammonds, who was arrested on Oct. 17, would have crossed paths with that teacher in Tuluksak. They both worked there in 2017. Hammonds worked at the Tuluksak school for one year before moving to the Akiachak school. These are not his first felony charges. Just one year prior to working with the Yupiit School District, Hammonds pled guilty to a 2016 charge of felony assault in the third degree relating to domestic violence.
Hammonds’ preliminary hearing has been scheduled for next Friday, Oct. 28. In Alaska, sexual assault in the first degree is punishable by up to 99 years of imprisonment.