NJ clears prosecutor who didn’t charge Murphy staffer in rape case
TRENTON — The woman who accused a fellow Phil Murphy campaign worker of rape said she is “deeply discouraged” about the state attorney general's conclusion that Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez's office did noting wrong in handling the investigation.
Katie Brennan spelled out her allegations against Al Alvarez to the Wall Street Journal in an October interview. According to the story, Brennan said the incident happened after a gathering of campaign staffers in Jersey City in April 2017 when Alvarez offered to drive her home and then asked to use her bathroom. Brennan said Alvarez pushed her onto the a couch and forced himself on her.
The day after the alleged attack, Brennan called police. The day after that she went to Jersey City Medical Center to be evaluated. She said she sent a letter to Alvarez the following week, saying she had been sexually assaulted and asking her not to contact her again, the Journal reported.
The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office told Brennan last December that prosecutors declined to file charges. According to Brennan, Assistant Prosecutor Jane Weiner told her the sexual assault examination found DNA evidence but it was deemed "not strong enough," and Alvazez had maintained the incident was consensual.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in October said the case had been reviewed by "career detectives" and "veteran special victims prosecutors," but not directly by Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. Grewal moved the investigation to another office to prevent any potential conflicts. The prosecutor also defended the work of her investigators.
Following the Wall Street Journal reporting, Alvarez resigned his position with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority but denies the allegations.
A spokeswoman for Brennan this week released a response to the attorney general's report, which was sent to legislative leaders on Tuesday.
“The Attorney General’s swift conclusion that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office acted properly in my case may bring a sense of relief to some. However, for those, like me, who have not yet seen justice in New Jersey, the Attorney General’s decision only heightens my already grave concerns about the treatment of sexual assault victims in the investigation process." Brennan said in her statement Thursday.
Brennan said the Attorney General's Office never asked to speak with her.
"They have not heard my story directly. They have not allowed my concerns to be heard or asked me any clarifying questions," Brennan said.
Attorney general spokeswoman Sharon Lauchaire said said an investigation conducted by the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) had a narrow scope: To find out whether Suarez was personally involved in the 2017 investigation of a sexual assault allegation, and did her familiarity with both the victim and the alleged assailant present an inappropriate conflict of interest?
"OPIA concluded that Prosecutor Suarez was not personally involved in the investigation and therefore did not act inappropriately in this regard," Lauchaire said.
She said OPIA did not offer an opinion on any other aspect of the investigation or the substance of the underlying sexual assault allegations.
"The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing those allegations and will make its own independent conclusion about whether criminal charges are appropriate," she said.
Brennan in her statement said "the first and only time I met Prosecutor Suarez was at a dinner on Aug. 30, 2018."
The decision comes during a week in which Grewal issued guidelines to New Jersey law enforcement about handling sexual assault cases.