Missoula County Attorney rejects DOJ information request


MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is in a standoff with the US Department of Justice over the release of information requested by the DOJ as part of an ongoing investigation.

"Just because they want to investigate somebody doesn't mean that they have the authority to do so that," said Van Valkenburg.

NBC Montana had the story in May, when the DOJ first announced the investigation into allegations of gender discrimination in the way reported sex assaults are handled by the University of Montana, the Missoula Police Department, and the Missoula County Attorney's office.

The university and the police are giving the investigation their full cooperation, and they've handed over internal information and records, but county prosecutors aren't giving the feds anything.

Van Valkenburg said he doesn't believe the DOJ has the authority to investigate his office, and refuses to comply with their information request. He provided NBC Montana with correspondence between the county attorney's office and DOJ officials.

In the letters, the DOJ outlines their legal justification for the investigation, citing the "Section 14141" of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which gives the federal government the authority to sue local governments over the conduct of their law enforcement officers.

Van Valkenburg rejects that justification, arguing that it wrongly includes county prosecutors in the category of law enforcement officers.

"They want to believe that prosecuting attorneys are law enforcement officers, and I just don't think that that's true."

Van Valkenburg reiterated his position in a letter sent to the DOJ June 25, and he says he is still awaiting a reply.