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Missoula County Attorney Sends Response to Department of Justice Regarding Sexual Assault Investigation [AUDIO]

Michael Cotter
photo by Peter Christian

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg has sent a letter to United States Attorney for Montana Michael Cotter, responding to a proposed settlement with the Department of Justice.

In the letter, dated January 9, Van Valkenburg said he is rejecting the agreement proposed on December 11.

“Essentially, it tells them I’m rejecting the agreement that they wanted to enter into, Van Valkenburg said. “I list all of the things I think are reasons why I think their proposed agreement are unnecessary.”

Van Valkenburg said he has listed the reasons many times, but the letter makes the response official.

“I think we’re doing an excellent job prosecuting sexual assault cases right now,” Van Valkenburg said. “I think we’re following many of the recommended best practices, and then after explaining all that, I go into the fact that I don’t think they have jurisdiction to investigate this case, they don’t have any authority to bring a lawsuit against us, and I propose at the very end that they resolve this by entering into an agreement that we would assist the police department and the University of Montana public safety office in implementing the agreements that they have with the Department of Justice. If they want to resolve it on that basis, I’d be happy to do so, otherwise, I am preserving all options in terms of taking action against the Department of Justice.”

Response Letter to Michael Cotter

Van Valkenburg said he doesn’t hold out much hope that the U.S. Attorney and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will agree to the recommendations in his letter.

“I think my experience tells me they’re likely to say if you don’t want to agree to what we want, we’ll take you to court,” Van Valkenburg said. “I still need to convince the county commissioners to give me a little money to hire counsel to represent our office,but all in all, I think we’re in good shape.”

Van Valkenburg said if the matter is litigated, he believes it won’t go any farther than a U.S. District Court in Montana.

“I think it’ll be resolved in the U.S. District Court where the federal judges in Montana are,” he said. “I seriously doubt that if the DOJ loses there, that would appeal beyond that, but, you never know.”

Van Valkenburg has steadfastly refused to cooperate with the Department of Justice since the first day they arrived in Missoula on May 1, 2012, to investigate how Missoula and the University of Montana were handling investigations into sexual assaults.

With Thursday’s letter, the matter is now up to the Department of Justice.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg

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