Ahead of Brennan hearing, Grewal announces new practices for sexual assault cases

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Ahead of a highly publicized Trenton hearing of a sexual assault case that allegedly occurred last year, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is announcing new law enforcement practices for handling sexual assault cases. 

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. Twitter photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Attorney General Directive 2018-5 establishes new reporting requirements and provides for the gathering and evaluation of data on Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) activations, sexual assault investigations and prosecutions, disposition of cases, and factors used in determining case dispositions, Grewal’s office announced earlier today.

It also requires each county prosecutor’s office to develop and implement procedures and protocols requiring law enforcement agencies to report sexual assault incidents and complaints within 24 hours.

Under this directive, victims are provided the opportunity to meet with an assistant prosecutor in person to explain the basis when a prosecution will not go forward.

“While much has been done through the years to make law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and other service providers more responsive to the needs of sexual assault victims, there is always room for re-examination and improvement,” Grewal said in a statement.

“The directive and standards issued today are the result of outstanding collaboration among law enforcement, the service community, and advocates for sexual assault survivors. Moreover, these documents provide for increased input from victims and further evaluation of these issues going forward.”

Other new standards include ensuring that sexual assault victims meet with prosecutors prior to a plea agreement being offered, requiring county prosecutors to report to the AG’s office regarding SART activations and depositions and police officers throughout the state to take a three-hour sexual assault class beginning next year.

The order comes just one week before Katie Brennan, the chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, is scheduled to testify before a special legislative committee looking into Murphy’s hiring practices.

Back in October, Brennan alleged that Albert Alvarez, the former chief of staff at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, raped her when he was a top campaign staffer for then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy (she was a campaign volunteer at the time).

Murphy, who has launched his own investigation – led by former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero – praised Grewal for his latest directive.