Attorney General Fox Praises Van Valkenberg for Obstructing Rape Investigations

Attorney General Tim Fox
Attorney General Tim Fox

It seems Tim Fox is more interested in commending Fred Van Valkenberg for “standing up to the federal government” than he is in protecting the interests of those who have been sexually assaulted and then subsequently mistreated under Van Valkenberg’s watch in Missoula County. Van Valkenberg received an award from Henry Garza, president of the National District Attorney Association board for “perseverance and overcoming obstacles,” and Attorney General Fox was effusive in his praise, suggesting that the most serious issue was that the federal government tried to intervene to ensure that sexual assault victims were treated with respect by prosecutors—and that that those who commit sex crimes are actually punished.

According to the Missoulian, Van Valkenberg still believes that he was the victim. He wrote The Missoulian:

“I appreciate the recognition by the NDAA,” Van Valkenburg wrote in an email to the Missoulian. “One of the most important things about challenging the DOJ’s legal authority to investigate our office was to try and make sure other prosecutors were not subjected to the kind of illegal and unfair attacks we were forced to endure.”

Someone should probably remind Mr. Van Valkenberg, Mr. Fox, and the Missoulian’s Kathryn Haake, who bizarrely referred to the Justice Department’s letter outlining the failures of the County Attorney’s Office as “infamous” in her piece just who was really forced to endure illegal and unfair attacks in Missoula. This was a prosecutor’s office that declined to prosecute 71 of 85 sexual assault cases referred to it by the police, a prosecutor’s office who refused to prosecute a man who confessed to raping a woman while she was unconscious, and a prosecutor’s office who dismissed claims of sexual assault against women because they were “girls getting drunk at a party.” And that’s just the start of their failure.

It’s also worth highlighting that Van Valkenberg only invoked the rights of local prosecutors once the Justice Department began to investigate his office’s abject failure to protect the people of Missoula County. When it came to the right of the people of Missoula to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, Van Valkeneberg welcomed state and federal intervention.

I simply can’t understand the pathology that would permit Van Valkenberg to take both the position that the federal government should not assist criminal investigations into sexual assault but should when it comes to marijuana offenses, but I do know that he’s not worthy of any commendation.

And while I’m glad that Attorney General Fox finally involved himself in the Missoula County debacle, his focus on the “rights” of County Attorneys and local prosecutors (something missing in my copy of the Constitution) has to send a chilling message to those who would seek redress in the legal system when they are the victims of a sex crime. Perhaps Fox truly does believe that the agreement reached between his office, the Missoula County Prosecutor, and the DoJ will “protect the rights of victims of sexual crimes,” but he certainly should not be commending the man who led the office that routinely violated those rights.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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  • I think the award sends the wrong message. It’s interesting that Fox is falling all over himself to support Van Valkenburg when just a month ago or so he was here in Missoula signing the papers.  He sure blows in the wind a lot.

    Overall it’s a sort of sad footnote to this whole debacle.

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