TRENTON — A New Jersey prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that it would not charge a former state official accused of sexual assault by another employee in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, citing “a lack of credible evidence.”
Katie Brennan, who is chief of staff of the state’s housing finance agency, accused Albert Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in April 2017 when they were both working to get Murphy elected. Alvarez, who left as chief of staff of the Schools Development Authority in October when a news account of the accusation was about to come out, has denied the allegation through his attorney.
“Due to a lack of credible evidence and corroboration that a crime was committed, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office will not be filing any criminal charges in this matter,” the office said in a statement.
Brennan’s lawyer, Katy McClure, said she was disappointed with the decision.
Messages seeking comment were left with Alvarez’s lawyer.
Brennan is suing the state over its handling of her allegation, which she reported to law enforcement after the alleged April 2017 assault as well as to officials in the governor’s transition and administration. She has said the administration botched its response to her claims, which officials have testified that they found to be credible.
Murphy has defended his administration’s handling of the allegations, which included his chief counsel’s alerting the office’s ethics adviser. But he also has said he wishes Alvarez had not been hired to work in the administration after the campaign. Who hired Alvarez has not been made clear.
Murphy’s chief of staff and chief counsel asked Alvarez to leave in March and June, but they stopped short of firing him. He left when it became clear that the Wall Street Journal was about to publish an account of Brennan’s accusations in October.
The Inquirer does not typically identify people who say they are sexual assault victims unless they grant permission or come forward publicly, as Brennan did.
The fallout from the accusation has led to a legislative committee investigation into Murphy’s handling of Brennan’s allegations.
It also led to the review by the Middlesex prosecutor, ordered by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal after the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office initially failed to bring charges and after Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez recused herself after she realized she knew both the accuser and accused.
Suarez issued a statement Wednesday saying that she had reviewed the case file and stood by the decision not to prosecute.
“Today, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office announced that their independent investigation resulted in the same determination reached by the HCPO [Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office] not to prosecute Albert Alvarez,” the statement, posted on the office’s Facebook page, said.
“The decision by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the earlier conclusions reached by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the Attorney General’s Office should leave no room for interpretation about the independence of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in the handling of this matter.”
The Middlesex office has not detailed what it did in its review, but said it conducted an independent review of criminal allegations and declined to bring charges.
“We are deeply disturbed and disappointed by this egregious miscarriage of justice,” McClure said in a statement. “The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office failed Katie Brennan. The governor’s staff failed her. The attorney general failed her. And now the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has failed her as well.”
Murphy has hired former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero to review his administration’s handling of the case. Murphy said Wednesday he did not know when Verniero’s review would be done.