Local Maryland law enforcement and legal authorities say they are prepared to investigate the sexual assault allegations against embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh–if Christine Blasey Ford is willing to file a criminal complaint.
A September 28 letter co-authored by Montgomery County Chief of Police, J. Thomas Manger, and Montgomery County State’s Attorney, John J. McCarthy outlines the scenario going forward. The letter notes:
We remain prepared to investigate any allegation, should a victim come forward. To date, there have been no criminal reports filed with the Montgomery County Department of Police that would lead to the initiation of any criminal investigation related to Judge Kavanaugh…The Montgomery County Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office stand ready to investigate any sexual assault allegation from any victim where the incident occurred in our jurisdiction.
The letter also notes that both offices consider the testimony of an alleged victim paramount to the initiation of such investigations. The letter also clarifies that this approach is line with both national standards and respected Old Line State sexual assault survivor advocacy networks.
“Law enforcement agencies and victim advocacy groups from around the nation promote a victim-centered policy toward sexual assault investigations,” the letter reads, “Efforts to not revictimize a sexual assault survivor are essential. We agree with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and their Executive Director, Lisae Jordan, that the willingness of a survivor to come forward to law enforcement is an important factor in any criminal investigation.”
The letter underscores the above points on several occasions, noting in another paragraph, “The decision to report the crime of sexual assault or rape to law enforcement is a deeply personal one and a decision that must be made by the survivor. Our agencies understand and appreciate the impact that sexual assault has on survivors and investigate all reports to law enforcement to the fullest extent.”
Additionally, the letter makes a somewhat against-the-grain claim that, if Dr. Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh are true, the crimes described would have only qualified as misdemeanors under the statues in effect at the time the incident occurred–and thus the statute of limitations would have long tolled. The letter states:
Furthermore, the law at the time the offense occurred is the law that must be applied to any charges that might be brought. For example, in 1982, assault and attempted rape were both misdemeanors and subject to a one-year statute of limitations.
This summary of Maryland state law has been disputed by legal scholars, however, including Maryland’s former deputy attorney general Thiru Vignarajah. In a Twitter thread posted on Friday night after the joint letter was made public, Vignarajah noted:
For those looking at Md statute of limitations (SOL), the closest thing to what we today call attempted first-degree rape was, in 1982, assault with intent to rape, which is a felony to which no SOL applies. (Not to be confused with the misdemeanor of attempt to rape.)
The former deputy attorney general also provided some statutory authority for his claim by way of photo-copied pages from “The Annotated Code Of The Public General Laws of Maryland,” which was in effect through 1982 at least. Maryland’s Revised Statutes from that period read, in relevant part:
Every person convicted of the crime of an assault with intent to commit a rape in any degree or a sexual offense in the first or second degree is guilty of a felony and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years nor more than 15 years.
Vignarajah also cited a Maryland Supreme Court case which describes the difference between the felony and misdemeanor versions of the similarly-named sex crimes in question.
Christensen v. Maryland notes, “If an attempt to commit a rape proceeds to a degree whereby it is tantamount to an assault upon the victim, the offense becomes the felony of assault with intent to rape, but if the attempt to rape falls short of an assault, the offense remains a common law misdemeanor.”
[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]