Timeline: Murphy Hires Aide Accused of Raping Campaign Volunteer
JERSEY CITY — Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered an investigation into how members of his administration and transition team handled allegations of sexual assault by a female campaign volunteer against another campaign aide — first made months before both were hired by the state.
The investigation will be done by the law firm of former state Supreme Court Justice Peter G. Verniero. It will investigate the the hiring and vetting of Albert J. Alvarez, regarding his position in the transition office and his eventual position at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
Alvarez has resigned, but denies the allegations against him.
"I have been assured that I will have complete independence to request interviews with whomever I deem appropriate as fact witnesses as well as access to relevant documents," Verniero said in a statement.
Katie Brennan spelled out her allegations to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. Here is a timeline of events based on that interview and other reports.
April 2017: Katie Brennan, now chief of staff at the state's housing agency, was at a campaign event in Jersey City where Albert J. Alvarez, the campaign's outreach director for the Muslim and Latino communities, offered to drive her home, she told the Wall Street Journal. Once they arrived, he asked to come in an have a drink of water and use the bathroom, she said. Once in her apartment she said he pushed her onto a couch, forced himself on her, pulled up her T-shirt to put his mouth on her breasts and put his fingers in her vagina, she said. Brennan said she told him "this is not consensual."
Brennan said she called her husband, Travis Miles, who was on an extended work trip in Sweden. Katy Baldwin, her best friend came over to be with her for the next several days.
April 2017: Brennan said she called police the day after the attack and went to Jersey City Medical Center for a sexual assault evaluation.
April 2017: Brennan said she sent Alvarez a letter via FedEx that accused him of sexually assaulting her and asking him to never contact her again.
Summer, 2017: Brennan joined the Murphy campaign as a volunteer policy adviser.
November 2017: After Murphy won the election, Brennan and Alvarez worked on the transition committee. Brennan had been in touch with the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office several times since her initial report, and told the Journal she thought at the time an arrest was likely to occur soon.
Brennan allowed a friend to warn the transition counsel Alvarez might be criminally charged, she told the Journal. A senior administration official also told the Journal transition officials were aware of a sexual assault allegation — though no criminal charges — but did not know it was by Brennan.
Early December 2017: The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office told Brennan it declined to file charges. According to Brennan, Assistant Prosecutor Jane Weiner told her the sexual assault examination found DNA evidence, but it was deemed "not strong enough," and Alvazez had maintained the incident was consensual.
Later, in October of 2018, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the case had been reviewed by "career detectives" and "veteran special victims prosecutors," but not directly by Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.
January, 2018: Phil Murphy is inaugurated as New Jersey governor. The day after, Alvarez is hired as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. According to the Journal story, a senior administration official said the offer of employment was made when a background check came up clean, showing no criminal charges.
March, 2018: Brennan told the governor's chief counsel, Matt Platkin, about her allegation of assault, she said. Platkin went to the governor's chief ethics officer and recused himself because he knew both parties, according to Brennan's account. The ethics office then referred to the AG's office.
April, 2018: Platkin told Alvarez's boss, New Jersey Schools Development Authority CEO Charlie McKenna, that Alvarez should "separate himself" from working for the state according to a senior administration official who spoke to the Journal. Alvarez said he would leave but no date was specified, McKenna told the Journal. However, he remained in the position for several more months.
June 1, 2018: Brennan emailed Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy that she wanted to speak to them about a "sensitive matter" that happened during the campaign, Brennan told the Journal. "Hang in. We are on it," read the governor's reply. He said he was informing staff to arrange a meeting, which never happened.
First week of October: The governor and first lady find out about the specific nature Brennan's accusation, according to a spokesman for the governor's office. As media inquiries began about rumors of a sexual assault allegation, Alvarez resigns his position with the state.
Week of Oct. 8: Alvarez is invited to a "mandatory fun" staff reunion in Princeton scheduled for Oct. 18, several days after he resigned, according to the New Jersey Globe.
Wednesday, Oct. 10: Politico New Jersey reports Alvarez had been investigated for an allegation of a "criminal nature" and had been accused of sexual misconduct. Subsequent stories in the following days by Politico and other publications provide more detail about the allegations, but do not name Brennan. A story the next day by NJ.com specifically describes the allegation as one of "sexual assault."
Alvarez's name was brought up by a reporter during a question-and-answer period media event about NJ Transit. Murphy acknowledged Alvarez's resignation but said he had no "color" to add to the matter.
Thursday, Oct. 11: The governor's office was made aware of an incident that happened in 1999 or 2000, which was referred to Attorney General, according to a spokesman for the governor's office.
Sunday, Oct. 14: Brennan's account appears in the Wall Street Journal. It is the first time she is identified by name as the accuser to the public.
Oct. 15: Murphy orders an investigation into how Alvarez was hired. Grewal announces the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office will review the criminal case, as the Hudson County Prosecutor knew both parties — but says the prosecutor wasn't personally involved in the decision not to file charges.
Brennan also said she turned down an offer of a $15,000 settlement from Alvarez not to disclose her allegations, but no date is given.