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Murphy: ‘I’m sick to my stomach’ over staffer’s sex assault claims

October 15, 2018 - 2:12 pm

TRENTON, NJ (1010 WINS) -- New Jersey's governor says he's ordered an investigation into the hiring of a senior staffer despite allegations of sexual assault in his past, and a current one from a state official.

Katie Brennan went public this week with the accusation against Al Alvarez who resigned this month as Chief of Staff to the Schools Development Authority.

Brennan - now Chief of Staff of the State Housing and Mortgage Financing Agency -- said Alvarez raped her in April of 2017, when both were working on the Phil Murphy's campaign.

"I decided to come forward because I know that Al Alvarez, and all perpetrators, must be held accountable, must never rape again, and the justice system needs a complete change with regard to sexual violence," Brennan said.

Brennan laid out her account of the incident in a story in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

She told the paper the incident took place after a gathering in Jersey City, NJ.com reported.

She claims Alvarez offered her a ride home, and asked to use the bathroom and get a drink of water when they arrived. That's when she said Alvarez forced himself on her. She says she kicked him away, and hid inside a bathroom. NJ.com reports, Brennan's husband, and a close friend confirmed that she told them about it as soon as it happened.

The Hudson Count Prosecutor's Office has not commented on the investigation. A Murphy spokesman said the prosecutor had investigated and declined to pursue charges, NJ.com reported.

Brennan said she was shocked that charges weren't filed. She told the Wall Street Journal that a hospital examination found DNA and saliva. According to a report, an assistant prosecutor told her that Alvarez claimed the encounter was consensual.

Newspaper reports point to allegations of sexual assault before Alvarez was hired in the Murphy administration. The governor said he didn't know about those and wants to know what happened.

"I wish we hadn't made the hire in transition, period. I'm sick to my stomach once I heard what happened," Murphy said.

Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Manero will handle the investigation.

Murphy and his wife are meeting with Brennan on Monday to apologize.

"Tammy and I admire Katie's bravery and it's critical that we learn from her experience. For her and all women across New Jersey, we must ensure that the system works," Murphy said.

Alvarez has not been charged with a crime, and his lawyer said he absolutely, positively denies the sexual assault allegations.

Murphy also took a swipe at the recent Kavanaugh hearings, saying they won't follow the lead of Washington, and it will be a real investigation.