Brennan says message to victims is ‘loud and clear': Don’t speak up
TRENTON — After a second prosecutor decided not to charge a former high-ranking official in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration with sexual assault, his alleged victim said the message is clear: Don't come forward. But Katie Brennan also made clear she will continue her pursuit of justice.
Brennan and Al Alvarez both worked on Murphy's campaign for governor. It was during the campaign that Brennan alleges Alvarez sexually assaulted her. Both were hired for high-level positions in the new administration; as the allegations went public, Alvarez resigned.
Brennan reported the attack to police and to the highest levels of the campaign and then, the administration. She sent a private email to Murphy and his wife. Ultimately, the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office failed to bring charges and for more than a year, Brennan's pleas for justice fell on deaf ears.
"I had access to people in the highest positions of power in the state of New Jersey, and at each turn my pleas for help went unanswered. Somehow, it wasn't a priority ... until it impacted them," Brennan testified during legislative hearings into the hiring practices of the Murphy administration.
As Brennan's story became public, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered the Middlesex County Prosecutor to take another look. On Wednesday, the prosecutor issued a statement saying there would be no charges against Alvarez due to "a lack of credible evidence and corroboration that a crime was committed."
Alvarez's attorney saw it as vindication of his client. Brennan attorney Alan Zegas called it "outrageous," and suggested it was a political decision.
Brennan herself took it a step further.
"So many victims of sexual violence are watching their handling of my case, and I know they must be receiving a message loud and clear that they should not come forward," she said Wednesday night.
Brennan went on to say the system is broken, but vowed to "continue to pursue justice for myself and other survivors of sexual violence."
Brennan's lawyers have already filed one lawsuit.
Last October, a Wall Street Journal report raised questions about the initial investigation conducted by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and whether politics influenced the decision not to bring charges. Legislators investigating the matter are seeking the emails of Prosecutor Esther Suarez, but she has refused. Questions are already being raised about how the Middlesex County Prosecutor handled the case. Brennan's attorney alleges the prosecutor declined to let Brennan testify before a grand jury and refused to interview new witnesses.
If Murphy hoped this second prosecutorial review would bring this scandal to a close, he is liable to be greatly disappointed. Insiders confided to me it is likely to embolden members of a special legislative committee to dig even deeper. Some members of the committee still don't believe Murphy knew nothing about the allegations. They don't believe Suarez knew nothing about this. And they can't get a straight answer about who hired Al Alvarez.
Committee members are also concerned more women may have been victimized by members of the campaign and administration, but that those women are afraid to come forward because Murphy won't release them from a gag order.
Eric Scott is Vice President, Senior Political Director and Director of Special Projects for New Jersey 101.5. He anchors "New Jersey's First News" and weekday morning newscasts from 5 to 10 a.m., in addition to hosting a bimonthly Town Hall series.
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