USDOJ Report Delivers an Amount of Vindication for City Police

by jhwygirl

I am still stuck at page 17 of the damning USDOJ report serving as all but an indictment of Fred Van Valkenburg, pretty much because I can’t see fit to stomach more shirking of duties and violations of basic civil rights by Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s criminal department. More than a few things have stuck with me. I’ve also had some time to read the comments at the Missoulian, too, and feel like firing off on two items this rain-soaked evening.

First off, it appears from the comments to the Missoulian article there is still a large contingent of people out there that seem to hold on to Van Valkenburg’s dream that the USDOJ does not hold authority over his office. Many of these people don’t even address the veracity of the USDOJ report – confirming that rape nation and rape apologists and rape culture thrive here in Missoula.

Scary disgusting stuff, really.

Less disturbing in the comments – but still troubling – is the apparent lack of reading comprehension skills among this group of people. It’s not like they had to read to page 12 or anything. The USDOJ summarily dismisses Van Valkenburg’s whining about the USDOJ’s lack of authority over his office quite thoroughly beginning right there on page one. In the end, the mere fact that Van Valkenburg’s office has taken federal monies suffices here – which I might add illustrates yet another legal inadequacy of Fred Van Valkenburg: contractual law.

Oh, I may as well throw in one more legal inadequacy here – the ability to select competent counsel, since he’s dropped $50K into outside counsel to fight the feds on this point.

I look forward to the Federal District Court’s summary judgement here on this point. A summary judgement is, shall we say, a pretty embarrassing way to lose a case?

The second thing I want to take on this evening is what the title suggests – Van Valkenburg’s office’s role in the USDOJ’s investigation and subsequent settlement with the City of Missoula Police. Here, again, the USDOJ lays out repeated situations where the police investigated and documented only to have their work fall into the black cave that we now know is Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office.

City police apparently got so frustrated with their work going no where, that they created a summary sheet with a spot for the county attorney’s office to provide feedback. Frequently, these weren’t even returned – and when they were, they usually contained only two words: “insufficient evidence.”

That occurred, btw, on a case where the rapist confessed.

Missoula Police are well-trained. Many would say, too much so. This aspect does, though, bode well – or should – for victims of violent crime. Missoulians certainly are getting their tax dollar’s worth in this aspect. But if Van Valkenburg’s tutelage is failing victims of sexual assault, it’s surely failing us in prosecution of other victims of violent crimes as well.

Van Valkenburg has made much of his complaint that the feds want him to have his own staff investigator. Here, too, the USDOJ makes hay of Van Valkenburg’s claims, pointing out that his office fails to coordinate with the police. While they also fail to coordinate with the police, his office also fails to tell the police where further evidence might be obtained to make a case more easily prosecuted. They’re not telling him to hire his own investigator – they’re telling him he should work together with his law enforcement colleagues.

Which is kinda what the police were looking for when they created a summary sheet and a blank section looking for feedback.

City of Missoula Police referred 85 cases to to the county attorney’s office for prosecution between 2008 and 2012. Charges were only filed on 14. Now, think about that: In an unknown number of reported sexual assaults, the well-trained Missoula Police investigated and came to the conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to file charges on 85 cases, yet the county attorney’s office eliminated 83% of them, without even any feedback to police in 29 of those..

Would that shatter any police officer’s work ethic if 83% of your efforts on just sexual assault crimes were shot down by the county attorney’s office?

From page 9:

In addition, Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s approach to sexual violence in Missoula has had significant, detrimental impacts on the law enforcement community’s overall response to sexual assault. The work of Missoula Police detectives is compromised by the fact that, even if the expend the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the County Attorney’s Office often will not even charge the case. One woman reported that the Missoula Police detective in her case informed her that because “no one had a limb cut off and there was no video of the incident,” prosecutors “wouldn’t see this [the rape} as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party.” whether or not the detective’s characterization was correct, the County Attorney’s actions over time left this detective – and many others like him – with the understanding that non-stranger sexual assault of women, and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault, mut involve physical force or overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.

Mother Jones reporter and Montana native Dana Liebelson quotes a statement emailed to her by Van Valkenburg: “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.”

Really Fred? you want to go down whining like an 8 year old? Everyone’s picking on you?

If we’re to believe Van Valkenburg, confessed rapists lie, rape victims lie, and yes, even the Missoula Police lie.

I’m not buying it, and I’m not sorry that I don’t. And neither should you.


  1. lizard19

    thank you for highlighting how a lack of prosecution impacts Missoula PD. the message of the discrepancy between cases referred and cases prosecuted is simple: why bother?

    beyond victims and family members, it’s the police who must constantly place themselves at risk when offenders walk or plea down or are dismissed as boys being boys. I have nothing but respect for what police have to do under these conditions.

    • Yeah – after reading through that, You gotta have sympathy for ’em.

      Frustration like that which Van Valkenburg’s office created would manifest itself in all aspects of their work. Not good any way you look at it.

      It’s one thing to have to take a loss every once in a while – but 83% of the time just on sexual assault cases alone?

      It’s a horrible affect – not only on the police, but the community as a whole. I’ve not yet full read the darned thing, yet alone digested it…but there’s a pretty large load laying on Van Valkenburg’s shoulders. I kinda doubt the County Courthouse can support that kind of weight.

  2. bk

    except we can’t really blame low morale on the MCAO, when recently retired Mark Muir is praising his office- http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/van-valkenburg-is-right-time-to-muzzle-holder-and-doj/article_427f3dbc-98a8-11e3-880d-0019bb2963f4.html

    they couldn’t have thought too terribly of the situation over at the prosecutor’s office.

    • :-/ I have to think, having read the report, that individuals within Missoula PD did try to do the right thing.

      Curious-when did Muir retire? After this broke?

      • bk

        i don’t doubt that some did try to do the right thing. but i also don’t think they were doing a great job- perhaps more so attributed to negligence than outright hostility towards women.

        Muir retired in December.

  1. 1 Open Letter to Attorney General Tim Fox. It’s Time to Get Involved in Missoula :: Intelligent Discontent

    […] given your public commitment to making our communities safer, you will act to protect the people of Missoula County and investigate a broken County Attorney’s […]




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