Today, Kirsten Pabst is a Missoula County attorney, but in 2011 she was Missoula County's chief deputy prosecutor. That was when she testified on behalf of a student accused of rape and declined to press charges. According to Krakauer's account in Missoula, she spoke "on behalf of" the student for 42 minutes during the hearing.
According to the Missoulian, Pabst's presence at the hearing and her behavior there gave a member of the Montana State Bar Association's ethics committee "great pause," as it may indicate she declined to prosecute the student for reasons outside her professional responsibility to represent the State of Montana.
Pabst has since defended her actions at the hearing as in accordance with her duties as prosecutor and with the recommendation of the Missoula County Attorney at the time, Fred van Valkenburg, who, in 2014, refused federal investigators access to his office as part of an inquiry into alleged mishandling of sexual assault investigations.
"Everything I would have said would have been in response to questions that were posed to me by participants and would have pertained to my analysis of the case for possible prosecution," she told the Missoulian.
Missoula highlights just one university's troubled past when it comes to on-campus sexual assault, which is widely held to be a massively underreported and mishandled crime. At Boise State University, between 2010 and 2012, between four and six sexual assaults were reported, but according to one expert, Dr. Caroline Heldman, there may be as many as 220 sexual attacks at Boise State every year.