- Katie Brennan, the chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, testified in front of lawmakers in New Jersey earlier this week.
- She claimed that in April 2017, she was raped by Albert Alvarez, a former senior campaign official to Gov. Phil Murphy and and New Jersey’s former Schools Development Authority chief.
- She said that despite telling multiple people in Murphy’s administration about the allegations, the office failed to act.
- Now Murphy’s office is being investigated over its handling of her rape claims.
A New Jersey state official claims the office of Gov. Phil Murphy failed to act after she accused one of the governor’s aides of rape.
Katie Brennan, 31, the chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, gave testimony to the Select Oversight Committee at the Statehouse on Tuesday in a hearing over the Murphy administration’s handling of her alleged rape.
Brennan claimed she was sexually assaulted by Albert Alvarez, a former campaign senior official for Murphy and New Jersey’s former Schools Development Authority chief, on April 8, 2017, according to NJ.com.
Brennan, a volunteer for Murphy’s campaign for governor at the time, has claimed that Alvarez pushed her on to a couch and raped her inside her home after he asked to use her bathroom after a campaign gathering, The Wall Street Journal reported in October.
Alvarez has denied the allegations.
Brennan said her claims were ignored by Murphy’s administration
Brennan reported the alleged rape to police immediately after the incident. She testified on Tuesday that Murphy’s office failed to act on the claims.
“I had access to the highest positions of power, and at each turn my pleas went unanswered,” she said, NJ.com reported. “Somehow it wasn’t a priority to address my sexual assault … until it impacted them.”
Brennan said that after Murphy was elected in November 2017, she told a friend, Murphy’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, Justin Braz, about the incident in a private conversation.
In December 2017, when Brennan believed the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office would bring charges against Alvarez, she gave Braz permission to tell Murphy’s transition team about the accusations without using her name.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office did launch an investigation into the incident but did not press charges against Alvarez.
Brennan said that months later she also alerted Murphy’s wife, Tammy, about the attack, as well as other high-ranking officials within Murphy’s administration.
In June, Brennan said she contacted Murphy through his personal email, asking to meet about a “sensitive matter.”
Murphy replied to her email with “Hang in, we’re on it,” according to testimony.
Soon after, Brennan was told Alvarez was leaving the administration – but it didn’t happen immediately.
Alvarez didn’t resign until Brennan went public with her claims
Alvarez eventually resigned in October, days after Brennan told her story to The Wall Street Journal.
“No survivor should have to tell their story to the newspaper to be heard,” Brennan said during her testimony on Tuesday.
Brennan testified that no one on Murphy’s staff told her they didn’t believe the rape claims, but that keeping Alvarez in power suggested that his role in the office was “more important than serving justice for the survivor.”
“If I can’t receive justice I don’t know who can,” Brennan testified. “Not every woman is able to call the chief counsel to the state of New Jersey.”
She added: “If someone in my position was able to keep going and keep pursuing and keep alerting people, and does have access to a number of people in very high positions, I don’t know who can get justice.”
More officials will testify in the investigation
It is unclear who the special legislative committee will ask to testify next, but Brennan asked that everyone she mentioned in her testimony be questioned.
In her testimony she named Murphy; Murphy’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, Justin Braz; Chief Counsel Matt Platkin; Chief of Staff Pete Cammarano; Deputy Chief of Staff Parimal Gar; campaign attorney Jonathan Berkon; and Chief Ethics Officer Heather Taylor.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Murphy did not reveal if he would agree to testify but said his administration would cooperate if the investigation is “solutions-focused and not political.”
Murphy also said he did not know about Brennan’s allegations until after Alvarez resigned.
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