Former campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer

Former campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer

A former volunteer for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's (D) campaign has accused one of his former staffers of sexually assaulting her during the 2017 gubernatorial campaign, raising questions about the state's protocol for handling such complaints, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Katie Brennan, the chief of staff for New Jersey's housing agency, told the news outlet that Albert Alvarez forced himself on her in April 2017, when both were working on Murphy's campaign. She said she contacted the police the next day, told friends and family about the incident and went to the hospital for a sexual assault examination.

In December, the Hudson County prosecutor decided not to press charges, determining Alvarez was unlikely to be convicted, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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An attorney for Alvarez said his client "absolutely, positively denies" the allegations, and declined to comment further to the newspaper.

Brennan said she turned down a settlement offer from Alvarez and emailed Murphy and his wife, Tammy Murphy, in June 2018 asking to discuss a "sensitive matter," though she did not explicitly mention the alleged assault.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed emails from the governor in which he asked staff to set up a meeting with Brennan, but the one-on-one never occurred, further stoking frustrations among Brennan and others about how sexual assault complaints are handled.

The governor's spokesperson told the newspaper that the Murphys did not learn that Brennan had accused Alvarez of sexual assault until earlier this month, when contacted by reporters. The spokesperson added that the governor and his wife have asked the Statewide Division of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action to assess how the state handles sexual misconduct allegations.

"We are confident that this allegation was handled appropriately by the administration and that policies and procedures were properly and promptly followed," the Murphys said in a statement to the Journal.

"However, it is clear that the process during the transition was inconsistent with our values, and the hire should not have happened,” the Murphys added. “We must now ask: how can we hold ourselves to a higher standard moving forward?”

Alvarez was working as the chief of staff for the New Jersey Schools Development Authority until he resigned on Oct. 2, the same day the Journal emailed him asking for comment about Brennan's allegations.

Brennan is the latest woman to allege harassment by a figure in power. Her account was published a month after Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left Warren, Harris, Gillibrand back efforts to add justices to Supreme Court MORE of pinning her to a bed and groping her during a party when the two were in high school.

Two other women came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. He denied all of the claims, and was confirmed by the Senate, 50-48.

Amid the "Me Too" movement, women have accused former Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenMan who threatened to kill Obama, Maxine Waters faces up to 20 years in prison Gillibrand defends her call for Franken to resign Gillibrand: Aide who claimed sexual harassment was 'believed' MORE (D-Minn.), former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersOvernight Health Care: Pelosi asks how to pay for single-payer | Liberal groups want Dems to go bigger on drug prices | Surprise medical bill legislation could come soon Key Dem chairman voices skepticism on 'Medicare for all' bill Democrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) and Alabama Senate candidate Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore says he's 'seriously considering' 2020 Senate bid Doug Jones: Trump unintentionally giving 'green light' to hate crimes GOP candidate welcomes Roy Moore to enter Alabama Senate primary MORE (R) of sexual misconduct. More than a dozen women have also accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE of sexual misconduct. The president has denied all of the allegations.