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Deputy Attorney General Ian Clement named acting AG following Ariel Smith’s abrupt resignation

Deputy Attorney General Ian Clement was named acting attorney general today following this week’s abrupt resignation of former Attorney General Ariel Smith.
Source: Facebook
Deputy Attorney General Ian Clement was named acting attorney general today following this week’s abrupt resignation of former Attorney General Ariel Smith.

ST. CROIX — Deputy Attorney General Ian Clement was named acting attorney general today following this week’s abrupt resignation of Ariel Smith from the post, according to Karl Knight, the governor’s chief of staff.

After working eight months in 2016 as an assistant municipal attorney in Trenton, New Jersey, Clement joined the Virgin Islands Department of Justice as an assistant attorney general in November 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile. He became deputy AG in December 2023.

Clement defended Governor Albert Bryan Jr. during a hearing Tuesday before the Virgin Islands Supreme Court in a lawsuit the governor filed against the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority that was on appeal from the Superior Court. Bryan sought injunctive relief against implementing Act No. 8472, which eliminated two out of three WAPA board members selected from the governor’s Cabinet. Clement argued before the Supreme Court that the act violates the separation of powers doctrine under the Revised Organic Act of 1954.

Clement was tapped as the acting head of the Department of Justice following Smith’s resignation from the top position after eight months on the job.

Smith wrote in her letter of resignation submitted to Bryan on Monday that she would be resigning effective today per his specific request and based on her conversation with the governor’s chief of staff, according to the letter published Wednesday in the Virgin Islands Daily News.

Knight briefly discussed why Smith resigned.

“We had a conversation and later that day she tendered her resignation,” he said. “I won’t go into the details beyond that. She chose to resign her post.”

Smith requested in her resignation letter to continue serving as an assistant attorney general, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement effective October 1, 2022, and Section 7 of the tentative wage agreement. She noted this reversion is understood to be automatically effective within 30 days from the date of termination.

Former Attorney General Ariel Smith.
Source: Virgin Islands Department of Justice
Former Attorney General Ariel Smith.

Knight said her request would be honored as long as it’s allowable.

“There is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that I think does entitle her to that, so we’re gonna honor whatever the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement are,” he said.

Bryan announced Smith’s resignation in a brief statement issued Tuesday, thanking her for her dedicated service to the people of the Virgin Islands during her time in office. He noted a search for a new AG would begin immediately. The statement noted that the governor and Smith wish each other well in their future endeavors.

Bryan nominated Smith to serve as attorney general about one year ago, sending her name down to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands on March 20, 2023. He nominated Smith to lead the DOJ after terminating former Attorney General Denise George on December 31, 2022, four days after her office sued JPMorgan Chase in federal court in connection with the department’s investigation of 66-year-old Jeffrey Epstein. A convicted sex offender, Epstein killed himself in August 2019 in a Manhattan correctional facility while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14 years old.

“I relieved Denise George of her duties as attorney general this weekend,” Bryan said in a statement issued January 1, 2023. “I thank her for her service to the people of the territory during the past four years as attorney general and wish her the best in her future endeavors. Assistant Attorney General Carol Thomas-Jacobs will serve as acting attorney general.”

Former Attorney General Denise George.
Former Attorney General Denise George.

Bryan subsequently nominated Thomas-Jacobs on March 2, 2023 to serve as a Superior Court judge.

George departed the DOJ after reaching a $105 million settlement she announced November 30, 2022 with Epstein’s estate that resolved a local sex trafficking case filed in 2020 under the territory’s anti-criminal enterprise, sex trafficking, child exploitation, and fraud laws. The settlement includes one half of the proceeds from the sale of Little St. James, Epstein’s island off the coast of St. Thomas on which many of his crimes occurred that is located next to Great St. James, which Epstein also owned. Both islands sold for $60 million, half of which will be used to provide services to sexual abuse victims in the territory.

The case the DOJ filed against JPMorgan Chase on December 27, 2022 in New York alleged the bank — one of the world’s oldest, largest, and best-known financial institutions — knowingly concealed Epstein’s human trafficking network from his home and base in the Virgin Islands, financially benefited, and failed to comply with federal banking regulations. JPMorgan Chase agreed in September 2023 to pay $75 million to the Virgin Islands to settle the claims. The bank had previously agreed in June 2023 to pay $290 million to nearly 200 of Epstein’s victims in a class-action lawsuit that included similar allegations to those in the lawsuit George’s DOJ filed.

A couple months after JPMorgan Chase reached the $75 million settlement with the Virgin Islands, Epstein’s victims, identified as Jane Does, sued the territory in a complaint filed November 22, 2023 in federal court in New York. The victims allege Virgin Islands government officials in office when Epstein engaged in sex trafficking aided his operation. The defendants named in the class-action lawsuit include former Governor John de Jongh Jr. and his wife, Cecile de Jongh, as well as former Governor Kenneth Mapp, former Attorney General Vincent Frazer, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, and former Senators Celestino White Sr. and Carlton Dowe, who now serves as executive director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority.

As head of the Department of Justice, the attorney general’s office indicates on its website that it is tasked with a multitude of powers, duties, and responsibilities, including providing legal counsel and legal representation to the governor, lieutenant governor, and all executive branch agencies, boards, and commissions, in addition to rendering official opinions and prosecuting all local crimes.

Assistant Attorney General Venetia Velazquez submitted a motion on February 8 to appear as counsel for Mapp and Frazer in the Jane Does’ lawsuit.

When asked if the DOJ would represent White and Dowe in the lawsuit, Knight said he did not have any insight into the matter.

“The Department of Justice would make that determination,” he said.

Subsequent to February 8, attorney David Ackerman, of Motley Rice LLC in Washington, D.C., entered an appearance of counsel on March 7 to represent Mapp and Frazer.

Attorney Daniel Cevallos, of Cevallos & Wong LLP in New York, entered an appearance of counsel on January 19 as lead trial counsel for John de Jongh Jr. Attorney David Cattie, of The Cattie Law Firm, P.C. on St. Thomas, entered an appearance of counsel the same day to also represent the former governor.

Attorney Amelia Schmidt, of Kaiser PLLC in Washington, D.C., represents Cecile de Jongh.

Attorney Eric Breslin, of Duane Morris LLP in New York, entered an appearance of counsel on February 27 to represent Plaskett.

WTJX has not been able to find an appearance of counsel representing White and Dowe.

Tom Eader is the Chief Reporter for WTJX. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Eader received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University, where he wrote for his college newspaper. He moved to St. Croix in 2003, after landing a job as a reporter for the St. Croix Avis. Eader worked at the Avis for 20 years, as both a reporter and photographer, and served as Bureau Chief from 2013 until their closure at the beginning of 2024. Eader is an award-winning journalist, known for his thorough and detailed reporting on multiple topics important to the Virgin Islands community. Joining the WTJX team in January of 2024, Eader brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the newsroom. Email: | Phone: 340-227-4463
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