Another NJ prosecutor declines to file sex charges against Murphy staffer
TRENTON — A state prosecutor's office said Wednesday that it won't charge a former state official accused of sexual assault by another employee in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration, citing "a lack of credible evidence."
Katie Brennan, who is chief of staff of the state's housing finance agency, accused Albert Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in 2017 when they were both working to get Murphy elected. Alvarez, who left as the chief of staff of the Schools Development Authority in October when a news account of the accusation was about to come out, has denied the allegation through his attorney.
"Due to a lack of credible evidence and corroboration that a crime was committed, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office will not be filing any criminal charges in this matter," the office said in a statement.
Brennan's attorney said she was disappointed with the decision. Messages seeking comment were left with Alvarez's attorney.
Brennan is suing the state over its handling of her allegation, which she reported to law enforcement after the alleged April 2017 assault as well as to officials in the governor's transition and administration. She has said the administration botched its response to her claims, which officials have testified that they found to be credible.
Murphy has defended his administration's handling of the allegations, which included his chief counsel alerting the office's ethics adviser. But he also has said he wishes that Alvarez was never hired to work in the administration after the campaign. Who hired Alvarez is not clear.
Murphy's chief of staff and chief counsel asked Alvarez to leave in March and June, but they stopped short of firing him. He left when it was clear that the Wall Street Journal was about to publish an account of Brennan's accusations in October.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are sexual assault victims unless they grant permission or come forward publicly, as Brennan did.
The fallout from the accusation has led to a legislative committee investigation into Murphy's handling of Brennan's allegations.
It also led to the review by the Middlesex prosecutor, ordered by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal after the Hudson County prosecutor initially failed to bring charges and when the Hudson prosecutor recused herself after she realized she knew both the accuser and accused. She added that that did not affect the decision not to bring charges.
The Middlesex prosecutor has not detailed what it did in its review, but the office said it conducted an independent review of criminal allegations and declined to bring charges.
"We are deeply disturbed and disappointed by this egregious miscarriage of justice," Brennan's attorney, Katy McClure, said in a statement. "The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office failed Katie Brennan. The governor's staff failed her. The attorney general failed her. And now the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office has failed her as well."
Murphy has also hired former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero to review his administration's handling of the case. Murphy said Wednesday he did not know when Verniero's review would be done.
"I would hope it's imminent," he said at an unrelated event earlier Wednesday.