On Friday, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Missoula County Attorney's Office in Montana, alleging that it has found "substantial evidence" that prosecutors there systematically discriminate against female sexual-assault victims.
According to the DOJ, the office considers sexual-assault cases involving adult women a low priority, often treats these victims with disrespect—quoting religious passages to one woman who reported assault, in a way that made her feel judged—and declines to prosecute some cases in which it has confessions or eyewitnesses, including a case in which Missoula police obtained incriminating statements from a man who admitted to having sexual intercourse with a mentally ill woman, who had asked him to stop.
"We uncovered evidence of a disturbing pattern of deficiencies in the handling of these cases by the County Attorney's Office, a pattern that not only denies victims meaningful access to justice, but places the safety of all women in Missoula at risk," wrote Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division, in a statement on Friday.
In a statement emailed to Mother Jones on Saturday, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg wrote, "I think that everything the DOJ is saying about our office is false. These people are as unethical as any I have ever seen. They obviously have a political agenda they want to push and the truth does not matter to them."