Montana Agrees to Deal With Feds to Beef Up Prosecutions of Sex Assault Cases

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The attorney general for Montana was put in the unenviable position of having to serve as a mediator between prosecutors in his own state and the U.S. Department of Justice. But as a result of that mediation, the Missoula County attorney has agreed to step up investigations and prosecutions of sexual assaults, promising to add several new positions and provide funding for experts to help their investigations.

In a scathing report issued earlier this year, the DOJ accused Missoula prosecutors of giving sexual assault cases their lowest priority, not because of evidentiary hurdles, but because of gender bias. According to the DOJ, one case involved a woman whose 5-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by an adolescent boy but was allegedly told by a prosecutor that "boys will be boys." Another alleged victim was reportedly told by prosecutors that "all you want is revenge."

And this morning's Missoulian reports that tensions remained high at a news conference Monday, announcing a resolution of the long-standing feud. The Missoula County attorney, who has already announced his pending retirement, continued to assert that the DOJ had no authority over his office.

“The letter that (Acting U.S. Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels) issued on Feb. 14 was the single most unprofessional thing I have seen in my practice of law in 41 years," said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg. "It hurts hugely to see my staff defamed in the way they defamed him.”

Valkenburg also pushed back against how much his department would need to spend to beef up its investigations and prosecutions.

“There is a price to things and the taxpayers have to pay that bill or their grandchildren or great-grandchildren have to pay that bill. And we should all be very cognizant of that," he said.


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