Murphy, ordering independent investigation of sexual assault allegation, comes out strongly in support of women victims

Gov. Phil Murphy came out strongly in support of women alleging sexual assault in an extraordinarily open news conference Monday afternoon in Newark.

Murphy, speaking about allegations made by Katie Brennan tied to Murphy’s hiring of Albert J. Alvarez in a report that appeared Sunday on the website of the Wall Street Journal, said the state will do a serious and transparent investigation into the allegation.

Former state Supreme Court Judge Peter Verniero of Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. will be in charge of an independent investigation.

Murphy, in a 25-minute question-and-answer session with the media, said he wants the state to set the gold standard nationally for handling sexual assault allegations.

“I plead with members of both parties, let’s stand up for Katie and the likes of Katie going forward and make New Jersey a better place for sexual assault victims,” he said.

Murphy said he and his wife, Tammy Murphy, first became aware of the allegation Oct. 2. Murphy said he and his wife will talk with Brennan later Monday.

“To make sure she knows we are on her side,” he said.

Murphy said he is deeply troubled by the allegation.

“It makes me sick to my stomach that Katie went through what she went through and is going through,” he said.

Here are some other comments he made during his opening statement:

  • “Let me be absolutely, unequivocally clear: This should never have happened. In this instance, the hiring process of the transition did not reflect our values or the seriousness with which we believe allegations of assault should be taken, period. Sexual misconduct in any form is and will continue to be treated by this administration with the utmost gravity. Now, we must lead and prove that commitment. Words are not enough.”
  • “All of us in public life have a responsibility to lead by example in creating a culture of respect where victims can feel empowered to step forward with their stories and to know their stories will be believed and appropriately handled.”
  • “We will not follow the lead of Washington. This will be a real investigation designed to uncover the truth of what happened, wherever it leads. We’re not playing politics. We owe the people of New Jersey transparency, and that’s exactly what we’ll provide.”
  • “I’ve asked Mamta Patel, the director of the statewide Division of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action within the Civil Service Commission, to review all state policies and procedures regarding the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct to determine whether there are ways to improve our system and to recommend any such improvements.”
  • “I have asked the attorney general (Gurbir Grewal) to lead a comprehensive evaluation of the way that these cases are handled by law enforcement, to change the balance so that victims are taken seriously and justice may be more easily achieved.”
  • “It was just a week or so ago when we saw what happens when those in power conduct sham investigations, when they mock victims and they avoid accountability. That will not happen on our watch.”
  • “The many women all across our nation who have decided over the recent weeks and months that they will be silent no longer will be our inspiration for change, as they must be. This administration stands with them and the generations of girls and women, like our little (daughter) Emma, who are yet to come. And we will redouble our commitment to not only ensure justice, but make sure New Jersey is not in the pack, but is a leader.”