Former Maricopa County Attorney On Rachel Mitchell: I Would Have Advised Her Not To Do This

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 12:26pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 3:18pm
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Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Rachel Mitchell.

LAUREN GILGER: But first an Arizona sex crimes prosecutor has been tapped to lead the questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. Rachel Mitchell is a longtime prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and has served as the director of the Special Victims Division there, as well. It's a move to depoliticize the process according to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. And that appears to be what they'll get with Mitchell who has largely stayed out of the public eye. It doesn't seem like she's done many interviews in the past, but I spoke with her for The Show about a new manual outlining the step-by-step protocol for sexual assault cases that her office adopted for the first time in Arizona in January. Here's a little bit of what she said about preventative measures for any future sexual assault victims.

RACHEL MITCHELL: It's always hard to know which victims were not victims, or which people were not victims because your system worked. So sometimes unfortunately you have to look at what doesn't work and try to close up those gaps. Hopefully we have a system in place that is very effective and everybody at the table I know is very committed to this type of case to make sure that this doesn't happen so we can come back to the table, we can modify it if we need to, if we found that there is a gap that exists. I mean our goal right now is, we know how these guys offend, and to stop them, put them in a position where they can't get into that position to re-offend.

GILGER: Rick Romley was Maricopa County Attorney until 2004 and he believes he was the one who hired Mitchell. I spoke with him more about her earlier this morning and he said she turned out to be a star. She worked on many of the office's highest profile investigations including the investigation into the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church here. He says Mitchell is a solid prosecutor who understands victims of sex assault, but he would have counseled her he said not to take this particular assignment.

RICK ROMLEY: I think that it's important that, you know I've thought about this since last night, when I was starting to get calls on this, and I'll be honest, I'm a little bit surprised, and I would probably counseled Rachel not to take the assignment of doing the interview.

GILGER: Why not?

ROMLEY: Well, No. 1, first of all you've got to understand a prosecutor ... is very highly trained to understand the dynamics of sexual assault and they understand, women do not always report that, you know, initially that there is memory that is forgotten, you know memories are fading. You know it's not just over time, just because, just because of the incident you know sort of a PTSD-type situation. So there's a sympathy you know, well not a sympathy, I think an understanding as to the victims and the victimization that goes on here. And yet she's going to be on the other side, you know, in essence challenging the credibility of Ms. Ford.

GILGER: Yeah. And I know Ms. Mitchell's career has been largely focused on working with victims of sex crimes like you said. How do you think that will work for her, kind of flipping the tables there?

ROMLEY: You know, I think it's going to be very, very hard for her. And I'm not sure that she actually will. So this may have been a blunder by the Republicans here. I mean not understanding the career prosecutors. It's ingrained in them. They understand it. So it may not work out, to have, you know, some of the Republicans want. I mean undoubtedly there are some Republicans there who will say go for the jugular. And I don't think Rachel will do that. And in fact it may backfire on the Republicans itself. My other concern is that Rachel was a solid prosecutor that I always went to on good important cases and things such as that, I never engaged her into the political dimensions and quite frankly from my reading of what's going on — this is very, very political. You know, prosecutors want law enforcement to investigate. They want witnesses before them. That's the way that prosecutors work, it's the evidence based. And this is, it's quite political. And I think it's going to be hard for Rachel and I want her to do well. I mean in the sense of, for herself and her reputation because she deserves it. But I think she's kind of gone into a little bit of a trap that maybe, that's almost a no win situation for her in some way.

GILGER: So it sounds like the Republicans here, you think, have tapped somebody who is normally working for victims. Is it maybe, a good thing, that she is not necessarily the obvious choice, in the sense that she is not really spoken out? I think I might have done one of the only interviews with her, ever, it seems. She's not normally a person in the public eye.

ROMLEY: I think that that is good at the initial perception. It's just that I just don't know how she's going to handle the moment and it's so political. I just don't know how she's going to handle herself. I hope and quite frankly pray that she keeps to her true beliefs and knowing all that she knows about victimization and those issues. But she could be having pressure on the other side to go another way. I hope she stays to herself, let me just put it that way. Because, you know, in the end, in politics you've got to look in that mirror at the end of the day and like yourself for what you've done and she's had a stellar career. I don't want it to be tainted, and I'm worried, quite frankly.

GILGER: I wonder if you can give us a sense of her style. I mean it's, I know she's worked with the victims and when I spoke with her she was very straightforward, very business-like. What sense do you get of how she will approach this?

ROMLEY: You know, I think that she'll be understated to some degree. She has a sense of humor. I know we as prosecutors, we always look so stern and everything else, but you know she would smile and laugh. That's the way I remember Rachel. I think she will be business-like knowing her. She will not, you know, go off with the crazy rhetoric that sometimes happens when the glare of the cameras are on you. But let me qualify that — this is out of her league. I don't know how it's going to come out to be really honest here. I just don't.

GILGER: OK. Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ROMLEY: All right. Have a good day.

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