Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty on Monday issued an apology letter addressing comments he made in February placing some of the blame for the state’s low sexual assault prosecution rates on victims, Mother Jones reported.
During a state House Finance Committee, Rep. Mark Neuman (R) was critical of Geraghty’s low prosecution rates, to which the attorney general responded that many victims change their mind about testifying.
“We have a mandatory arrest statute [for domestic violence] in this state, and so…the officer has to make an arrest. Now, it’s our job to prosecute and get a conviction. I can tell you, many times—and this is the part of the problem—many victims…change their mind,” Geraghty said at the hearing.
He then elaborated on why he believes some victims decide against testifying.
“It may have all been, not a prank necessarily, but a vindictive move by the victim to get back at the perpetrator, her husband or significant other, or whatever. There’s a whole gamut of facts that apply in these situations,” he said. “And it’s my job to get a conviction. If the victim won’t testify and it’s a he-said-she-said, I have to make a decision of where my resources are devoted…the numbers are improving and the rate of [case] acceptance is going up.”
Peggy Brown, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said in a March 7 letter to Geraghty that there are many reasons why sexual assault victims change their minds about testifying, such as “witness tampering, through coercion,” according to Mother Jones. She criticized the attorney general’s “insensitive and derogatory” remarks.
“You should…create a climate in which victims have the confidence to step forward and report these crimes; rather than one in which your department dismissively screens out charges, calls victims a ‘part of the problem,’ shames victims and calls them vindictive,” she wrote.
Geraghty then wrote a letter to Brown on Monday.
“I acknowledge there are many reasons why victims may not want to proceed with a criminal case,” he wrote in the letter, according to Mother Jones. “[I]t was wrong for me to have said anything that suggested otherwise.”
In 2011, Alaska officials prosecuted 141 sexual assault cases. Alaska did not start tracking reported sexual assault cases until 2012, but in that year 804 cases were reported.
In 2013, Geraghty acknowledged that prosecutors in his office made errors in prosecuting a case in which a sex offender killed two people and sexually assaulted a young girl and an elderly woman.