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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Grewal declines to say if he’s been interviewed by Verniero

Murphy chief counsel told Brennan he would speak with attorney general

By Nikita Biryukov, December 06 2018 2:08 pm

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Thursday declined as a matter of course to say whether he had been interviewed by former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero or his team.

Verniero is leading an internal investigation into Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration’s hiring of former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez, who has been accused of sexually assaulting state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan in April 2017, when the two were working on Murphy’s campaign team.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate just as a general matter to comment in any way on ongoing investigations with respect to Justice Verniero or the Legislature,” Grewal said.

In her testimony before the Select Oversight Committee on Tuesday, Brennan said Murphy Chief Counsel Matt Platkin told her he would alert the Attorney General’s Office to her allegations after she told him of the assault in June 2018.

“Mr. Platkin was horrified and told me that he would contact the Attorney General’s Office to see if anything could be done,” Brennan said during her testimony Tuesday.

Murphy and Verniero said in October that they expect the latter’s investigation to be concluded by the end of the year, though it’s not clear how closely that timeline is being followed.

Grewal did comment on one matter related to Brennan’s case. He sought to clarify his offices investigation of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s involvement in the case.

“We did not conclude anything about the Hudson County prosecutor’s ultimate decision in the underlying sexual assault investigation, which is being run out by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. They will decide where that case goes,” Grewal said. “The only thing that we concluded because there were allegations of a potential conflict of interest, is we concluded that Prosecutor Suarez had no involvement in that case.”

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was investigating Brennan’s case but eventually decided not to pursue charges. After that fact became public, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez came under some scrutiny. She knew both Alvarez and Brennan, meaning she could not preside over the case.

The Attorney General’s investigation found she did not and could not find and instances in which she acted improperly.

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