Van Valkenburg responds to DOJ allegations, moves forward with lawsuit
MISSOULA, Mont. - A battle between the Missoula County Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice continues as Fred Van Valkenburg responds to allegations from the DOJ.
It's a thick report from the DOJ Civil Rights Division addressed Van Valkenburg; 20 pages to make one point. The DOJ believes the Missoula County Attorney's Response to allegations of sexual assault and rape discriminates against women.
Van Valkenburg is not in town this week, though he was able to comment over the phone to our partners at KGVO.
"Disappointment, I think, that the Department of Justice would do this," Van Valkenburg said.
That reaction comes on the heels of the negative information compiled in the report. For instance, the report says a deputy county attorney quoted religious passages to a woman who had reported a sexual assault, so the victim felt the attorney was 'judging her negatively for having made the report.'
Another example: A woman whose 5-year-old daughter was assaulted by a young man said a prosecutor told her 'boys will be boys' when she asked why the person had been sentenced to only two years of community service.
Van Valkenburg and his office couldn't comment on specific cases but Van Valkenburg did say, "It's full of mistruths, half truths and outright lies. It does not reflect how our office treats people."
As for the impact the claims have on his office and the allegations the attorneys are ill prepared to prosecute sexual assault cases, Van Valkenburg said it's hard on everyone.
"It's hard on the staff, it's hard on me. It's hard on the county commissioners. It's hard on victims," he said. "I mean, this has been something that really has torn Missoula apart."
All of the claims tarnish the reputation of the Missoula County Attorney's Office. Van Valkenburg says the DOJ used its 20-page report in an attempt to win a war of public opinion.
"I don't think that we're dealing with honest, decent, straight forward people here," he said. "It is a Washington, D.C. hatchet job."
The report came just days after Van Valkenburg filed a complaint against the DOJ in U.S. District Court. Van Valkenburg maintains the department didn't have the right to investigate his office in the first place so he's asking a judge to make the call.
The DOJ has yet to respond to Van Valkenburg's complaint, though he said he plans to move forward with his case, despite the recent allegations.