Some members of the Select Committee on Oversight are unsatisfied with the how prosecutors from Hudson and Middlesex Counties handled investigations into sexual assault allegations against former Schools Development chief of staff Al Alvarez.
“Without interviewing the actual person who had the claim, they’re not doing 100%. Period. The end,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said.
It’s not clear whether prosecutors interviewed state Housing Agency and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan, though Brennan’s attorneys said Middlesex prosecutors did not meet with Gov. Phil Murphy’s deputy chief of staff Justin Braz and Brennan’s husband, both of whom Brennan told of the alleged assault shortly after it is said to have occurred.
Brennan claims Alvarez sexually assaulted her in April 2017, when Alvarez was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would later become a volunteer.
Alvarez denies the sexual assault allegations, claiming the event was consensual.
“What I would have like to have seen is a grand jury, because if they posed everything and put it before a grand jury and decided not to indict, then neither entity had to worry about being criticized,” Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce. “If it went to a grand jury, there wouldn’t have been any criticism of Hudson or Middlesex, and because that didn’t happen, that gives me concern.”
The Special Committee has sought emails sent or received by Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, who knows both Alvarez and Brennan, that the committee’s members believe could contradict her claims that she was not involved in the investigation of Brennan’s claims.
Those requests have been unsuccessful so far, and Suarez has faced criticism for her handling of the case, though investigations into how the probe was conducted have not revealed any wrongdoing.
It’s possible the committee will itself probe prosecutors’ handling of Brennan’s case, but with budget season looming — Select Committee Co-Chair Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin chairs the Assembly Budget Committee—it’s not clear whether legislative leaders and committee chairs will have the appetite to continue with a widened scope.
Members of the committee lean in different ways on that, but at least some are happy with whatever choice legislative leaders make.
“I leave that up to the leadership,” Lampitt said.