DOJ Reaches Agreement with County Attorney to Resolve Investigat - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

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>>

  • Ohio man accused of enslaving woman gets 30 years

    Ohio man accused of enslaving woman gets 30 years

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 2:31 PM EDT2014-07-22 18:31:27 GMT
    A man accused of enslaving a mentally disabled woman in northeast Ohio is set to be sentenced in federal court in Youngstown.
    An Ohio man convicted along with his girlfriend of enslaving a mentally disabled woman for two years through intimidation, threats and abuse was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison.
  • Crews make gains on massive Washington wildfire

    Crews make gains on massive Washington wildfire

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 2:31 PM EDT2014-07-22 18:31:26 GMT
    Firefighters and local authorities are heartened by weather forecasts that call for continued cooler temperatures and higher humidity as they battle a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles...
    A destructive wildfire in north-central Washington state grew slightly overnight, but firefighters have made progress in their efforts to get it under control, officials said Tuesday.
  • At 101, weather observer gets a place in the sun

    At 101, weather observer gets a place in the sun

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 2:12 PM EDT2014-07-22 18:12:13 GMT
    It takes only a couple of minutes, twice a day, but 101-year-old Richard Hendrickson is fiercely proud that he has done the same thing for his country and community nearly every day since Herbert Hoover was in the...
    It takes only a couple of minutes, twice a day, but 101-year-old Richard Hendrickson is fiercely proud that he has done the same thing for his country and community nearly every day since Herbert Hoover was in the White...
  • Most Popular

  • Regional NewsMore>>

  • Government selling home connected to Henrikson

    Government selling home connected to Henrikson

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 16:05:36 GMT
    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The U.S. attorney's office plans to sell a home connected to a man who has been questioned in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme in Spokane, Washington, and is awaiting trial on weapons charges in North Dakota. The case centers on James Henrikson, who had business dealings in North Dakota's oil patch with a man who was killed by an intruder in his Spokane home.
    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The U.S. attorney's office plans to sell a home connected to a man who has been questioned in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme in Spokane, Washington, and is awaiting trial on weapons charges in North Dakota. The case centers on James Henrikson, who had business dealings in North Dakota's oil patch with a man who was killed by an intruder in his Spokane home.
  • INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:51 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:51:52 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.
  • Columbia Park's Hydroplane History and New Upgrade

    Columbia Park's Hydroplane History and New Upgrade

    Monday, July 21 2014 9:49 PM EDT2014-07-22 01:49:27 GMT
    Kennewick, WA- Hydroplane Display and Upgrade The hydro display is one of the first things most people see when they enter
    The hydroplane display is one of the first things most people see when they enter Columbia Park. 
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Many Frustrated By Stalled Cobell Settlements

    Many Frustrated By Stalled Cobell Settlements

    Wednesday, July 16 2014 9:30 PM EDT2014-07-17 01:30:30 GMT
    In Congress Wednesday, the group in charge of doling out Cobell settlement claims says it's waiting on setting exact amounts and a judge's okay before making the rest of the payments.
    In Congress Wednesday, the group in charge of doling out Cobell settlement claims says it's waiting on setting exact amounts and a judge's okay before making the rest of the payments.
  • Watermelon Hill fire 40% contained

    Watermelon Hill fire 40% contained

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 11:52 AM EDT2014-07-22 15:52:14 GMT
    UPDATE: The Watermelon Hill fire remains 40% contained. Fish Trap resort evacuations have been lowered to advisory level according to the WA Department of Natural Resources. The fire has been reduced to 10,518 acres. This fire is burning 7 miles SW of Cheney, WA and started on July 19th.
    UPDATE: The Watermelon Hill fire remains 40% contained. Fish Trap resort evacuations have been lowered to advisory level according to the WA Department of Natural Resources. The fire has been reduced to 10,518 acres. This fire is burning 7 miles SW of Cheney, WA and started on July 19th.
  • MLB Scout Helps Southwestern Montana Baseball Camp

    MLB Scout Helps Southwestern Montana Baseball Camp

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:28 AM EDT2014-07-22 04:28:11 GMT
    While they often compete on the baseball diamond, the Bozeman Bucks and Belgrade Bandits teamed up together to host the second annual Southwest Montana Baseball Camp.
    While they often compete on the baseball diamond, the Bozeman Bucks and Belgrade Bandits teamed up together to host the second annual Southwest Montana Baseball Camp.
  • EU imposes new sanctions against Russian officials

    EU imposes new sanctions against Russian officials

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 11:32 AM EDT2014-07-22 15:32:09 GMT
    A train bearing the bodies of the people who died in the Malaysia Airlines crash arrived in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Wednesday on their way to the Netherlands.
    The European Union agreed Tuesday to impose new sanctions against officials deemed responsible for Russia's actions in Ukraine, amid mounting international anger after a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over...
  • Carlton Complex Fire now 250,136 acres; 2,100+ firefighters on scene

    Carlton Complex Fire now 250,136 acres; 2,100+ firefighters on scene

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:35 PM EDT2014-07-22 16:35:15 GMT
    UPDATE: The Carlton Complex is now the largest wild land fire ever to burn in the State of Washington. The perimeter of this fire is more than 100 miles long. The total acreage burned is 250,136 acres. A total of 2110 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the incident. The fire is 16% contained.
    UPDATE: The Carlton Complex is now the largest wild land fire ever to burn in the State of Washington. The perimeter of this fire is more than 100 miles long. The total acreage burned is 250,136 acres. A total of 2110 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the incident. The fire is 16% contained.
  • Three Wildfires Hit Western Montana

    Three Wildfires Hit Western Montana

    Friday, July 18 2014 12:12 AM EDT2014-07-18 04:12:12 GMT
    High winds and hot temperatures fuel three wildfires in western Montana.
    High winds and hot temperatures fuel three wildfires in western Montana.
  • Evacuee on Carlton Complex fires: 'This fire is blowing my mind'

    Evacuee on Carlton Complex fires: 'This fire is blowing my mind'

    Friday, July 18 2014 5:33 PM EDT2014-07-18 21:33:15 GMT
    In the words of someone who has close friends hit hard by the devastating wildfires in north-central Washington, the Carlton Complex Fires are not just damaging homes, but completely erasing them .Speaking with KHQ-TV on Friday morning, Stephanie Brown, from the town of Brewster, said she believed her home was still standing Friday morning, though she could not be sure.

    In the words of someone who has close friends hit hard by the devastating wildfires in north-central Washington, the Carlton Complex Fires are not just damaging homes, but completely erasing them .Speaking with KHQ-TV on Friday morning, Stephanie Brown, from the town of Brewster, said she believed her home was still standing Friday morning.

     

  • INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:51 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:51:52 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.