DOJ Reaches Agreement with County Attorney to Resolve Investigat - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

DOJ Reaches Agreement with County Attorney to Resolve Investigation

Posted: Updated:
MISSOULA - A two-year battle between the Missoula County Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice comes to a close.

In May of 2012, the DOJ investigation revealed alleged gender bias and discrimination in the prosecution of sexual assaults by the County Attorney's Office.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the DOJ, County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg and Attorney General Tim Fox announced a settlement on those findings.

The settlement states the Attorney General's Office will now oversee the County Attorney Office's handling of sexual assault cases.

It's a compromise, and Van Valkenburg maintains his office still would have won if the matter had gone to federal court.

Van Valkenburg said, "Men and women at the Missoula County Attorney's Office have been and will continue to be committed to seeking justice and protecting victims."

The County Attorney's Office will develop new training for prosecutors, improve communication with law enforcement and victims, and improve data tracking through the criminal justice system.

Michael Cotter, a U.S. Attorney, said, "The County Attorney's Office will act promptly, adequately and fairly to seek justice for victims of sexual assault."

Attorney General Tim Fox will oversee the implementation of the new requirements, as he has oversight authority over all Montana County Attorneys.

"We've also committed to asking legislature for additional funds for expert witnesses in sexual assault cases," he said.

Missoula County Commissioners approved the use of $210,000 for one year to fund a technical advisor and victim coordinator and to hire expert witnesses. Technical director Anne Munch will provide training and report back to the Attorney General on the County Attorney Office's progress.

"To ensure that survivors of sexual assault in Missoula are treated with dignity and respect and have the full protection of the criminal justice system," Jocelyn Samuels, of DOJ Civil Rights Division said.

As part of the agreement, Van Valkenburg will also dismiss the pending declaratory judgment action, while the DOJ agrees not to file any legal action against the County Attorney's Office.

Van Valkenburg says he supports today's agreement, but that support is primarily out of his respect for the Attorney General.

"I am confident that the DOJ's utterly unfair claims of authority and discrimination would not have succeeded in court," he said.

Attorney General Tim Fox and Van Valkenburg have committed to having improved policies in place within 90 days after signing a contract with the new technical director.

The settlement resolves the last component of the Department of Justice's investigation into Missoula's response to sexual assault.

The initial investigation was launched in May of 2012, after women made complaints about the handling of sexual assault cases.

In May of 2013, the DOJ entered into agreements with the University of Montana and UM's Office of Public Safety, which required the organizations to improve their response to reports of sexual assault.

One week later, the Missoula Police Department also entered an agreement with the DOJ.

In February of this year, federal investigators released their letter of findings into the county attorney's office.



Missoula organizations have taken big steps in improving the city and county's response to reports of rape in recent months.

A new Missoula Police unit dedicated to violent crime cases recently moved into new office space near the station. It houses six detectives-- all dedicated to tackling child abuse, sexual assault, and other violent crime cases.

MPD also added two interview rooms with soft chairs and lighting to make victims feel more comfortable.

Police, the university, 911 dispatchers, and St. Patrick Hospital are also auditing the city's criminal justice system. The audit team will release a report with recommendations to participating agencies and to the public in mid-December.



The Department of Justice has entered into a comprehensive agreement with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, the County of Missoula and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox to resolve the DOJ’s investigation of the County Attorney’s Office’s response to reports of sexual assault.

The agreement requires the County Attorney’s Office to:
  • Develop and implement effective sexual assault policies and training for prosecutors;
  • Improve treatment of individuals who report sexual assault, including in-person interviews and better communication while a matter is pending;
  • Use prosecution techniques that have been shown to result in better sexual assault investigations and that have been adopted in other prosecutor’s offices across the country;
  • Improve communication and coordination with other Missoula stakeholders regarding sexual assault response; and
  • Improve tracking and sharing of data regarding sexual assault prosecutions, so that the County Attorney’s Office has a broader picture of what it is doing and can better identify any general concerns or necessary improvements.
You can find a full transcript of acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels speech at today's press conference here. 

The DOJ's press release on the agreement can be found here.

  • NationalMore>>

  • Time for action: Florida shooting survivors meet lawmakers

    Time for action: Florida shooting survivors meet lawmakers

    Wednesday, February 21 2018 1:43 AM EST2018-02-21 06:43:17 GMT
    Wednesday, February 21 2018 12:35 PM EST2018-02-21 17:35:44 GMT
    Students who survived the Florida school shooting are preparing to flood the Capitol pushing to ban the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 people, vowing to make changes in the November election if they can't...>>
    Students who survived the Florida school shooting are preparing to flood the Capitol pushing to ban the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 people, vowing to make changes in the November election if they can't persuade lawmakers to change law now.>>
  • Rev. Billy Graham, known as 'America's Pastor,' dies at 99

    Rev. Billy Graham, known as 'America's Pastor,' dies at 99

    Wednesday, February 21 2018 8:33 AM EST2018-02-21 13:33:54 GMT
    Wednesday, February 21 2018 12:35 PM EST2018-02-21 17:35:01 GMT
    The Rev. Billy Graham, counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died at age 99. Spokesman Mark DeMoss tell The Associated Press that Graham died Wednesday morning at...>>
    The Rev. Billy Graham, counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died at age 99. Spokesman Mark DeMoss tell The Associated Press that Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.>>
  • Geraldo Rivera talks weapons age-limits with Trump

    Geraldo Rivera talks weapons age-limits with Trump

    Wednesday, February 21 2018 12:23 PM EST2018-02-21 17:23:56 GMT
    Wednesday, February 21 2018 12:34 PM EST2018-02-21 17:34:50 GMT
    Television personality Geraldo Rivera says he has discussed the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase assault-type weapons with President Donald Trump, adding that Trump "took it under advisement.".>>
    Television personality Geraldo Rivera says he has discussed the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase assault-type weapons with President Donald Trump, adding that Trump "took it under advisement.".>>
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Spokane almost dead last on Washington's safest cities list

    Spokane almost dead last on Washington's safest cities list

    Tuesday, February 20 2018 1:27 PM EST2018-02-20 18:27:47 GMT

    KHQ.COM - The National Council for Home Safety and Security has released the safest cities in Washington for 2018... and Spokane did not impress. To determine the order of the ranking the Council used data on the number of reported violent crimes and property crimes for every thousand people and also reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime report. Spokane ranked almost dead last coming in at number 79 (there were only 80 cities on the list).

    >>

    KHQ.COM - The National Council for Home Safety and Security has released the safest cities in Washington for 2018... and Spokane did not impress. To determine the order of the ranking the Council used data on the number of reported violent crimes and property crimes for every thousand people and also reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime report. Spokane ranked almost dead last coming in at number 79 (there were only 80 cities on the list).

    >>
  • Managers of Spokane Valley motel, 6 others arrested on drug and property crime charges following two-month investigation

    Managers of Spokane Valley motel, 6 others arrested on drug and property crime charges following two-month investigation

    Tuesday, February 20 2018 6:06 PM EST2018-02-20 23:06:06 GMT

    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A two-month investigation into criminal activity at the Red Top Motel in Spokane Valley resulted in a massive raid and the arrest of 8 people early Tuesday morning. The Red Top Motel has had more than 100 calls for service since the beginning of the year, with many of those calls resulting in the arrest of known criminals who commonly traffic in drugs and stolen property.

    >>

    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A two-month investigation into criminal activity at the Red Top Motel in Spokane Valley resulted in a massive raid and the arrest of 8 people early Tuesday morning. The Red Top Motel has had more than 100 calls for service since the beginning of the year, with many of those calls resulting in the arrest of known criminals who commonly traffic in drugs and stolen property.

    >>
  • Four-year-old fighting for his life after flu hospitalization

    Four-year-old fighting for his life after flu hospitalization

    Tuesday, February 20 2018 8:50 PM EST2018-02-21 01:50:10 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Randall and Jill Kimberling didn’t think it would happen to their child. But on February 4 their four-year-old son, Levi, started to fill ill. “We were the parents who looked at him and said ‘that wouldn’t happen to our child. He’s super healthy and super energetic’,” said Randall. “To watch him lay there and not move is hard.” By February 5, Levi’s fever reached 99 degrees. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Randall and Jill Kimberling didn’t think it would happen to their child. But on February 4 their four-year-old son, Levi, started to fill ill. “We were the parents who looked at him and said ‘that wouldn’t happen to our child. He’s super healthy and super energetic’,” said Randall. “To watch him lay there and not move is hard.” By February 5, Levi’s fever reached 99 degrees. 

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Regional NewsMore>>

  • Salmonella outbreak prompts Dept. of Health warning: 'Don't snuggle or kiss live poultry'

    Salmonella outbreak prompts Dept. of Health warning: 'Don't snuggle or kiss live poultry'

    Tuesday, February 20 2018 4:55 PM EST2018-02-20 21:55:50 GMT

    OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington Department of Health says nationally there were 1,120 Salmonella cases linked to backyard poultry in 2017, with 23 of those reported in Washington. Those 23 cases were more than double the number of cases in the previous two years combined.  "Salmonella can cause serious illness," the Department of Health said. 

    >>

    OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington Department of Health says nationally there were 1,120 Salmonella cases linked to backyard poultry in 2017, with 23 of those reported in Washington. Those 23 cases were more than double the number of cases in the previous two years combined.  "Salmonella can cause serious illness," the Department of Health said. 

    >>
  • Idaho to send 250 inmates to Texas

    Thursday, February 8 2018 6:14 PM EST2018-02-08 23:14:26 GMT

    BOISE, Idaho - Officials with the Idaho Department of Correction say up to 250 male inmates will be moved to a correctional center in Texas due to a shortage of beds in Idaho's prisons and jails. Director Henry Atencio said Thursday that he knows the move creates challenges for inmates and their families, but Idaho simply has no more room. 

    >>

    BOISE, Idaho - Officials with the Idaho Department of Correction say up to 250 male inmates will be moved to a correctional center in Texas due to a shortage of beds in Idaho's prisons and jails. Director Henry Atencio said Thursday that he knows the move creates challenges for inmates and their families, but Idaho simply has no more room. 

    >>
  • Mom says Pasco daycare waxed toddler's eyebrows

    Mom says Pasco daycare waxed toddler's eyebrows

    Wednesday, February 7 2018 12:03 PM EST2018-02-07 17:03:28 GMT

    PASCO, Wash. - The two moms of the kids whose eyebrows were waxed by their daycare officially filed a police report today with the Pasco Police Department. The daycare - a non-profit organization at Columbia Basin College - is licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning. The center has been licensed for less than a year, and has had no complaints filed against them...until this one. 

    >>

    PASCO, Wash. - The two moms of the kids whose eyebrows were waxed by their daycare officially filed a police report today with the Pasco Police Department. The daycare - a non-profit organization at Columbia Basin College - is licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning. The center has been licensed for less than a year, and has had no complaints filed against them...until this one. 

    >>