The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican leadership said Tuesday that it had retained Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor specializing in sex crimes, to help question Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s first accuser.
The move allows Republicans to avoid having the 11 men who are part of the committee and in their party grill Dr. Blasey on Thursday about the alleged sexual assault in high school that she says a young Judge Kavanaugh carried out.
Dr. Blasey had sought to have the senators question her.
In a statement, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Charles E. Grassley, called Ms. Mitchell a “career prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes.”
“I’m very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role,” he said. “Ms. Mitchell has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity.”
What exactly is Ms. Mitchell’s job?
First of all, Ms. Mitchell is a prosecutor — and she has been one since 1993, according to Mr. Grassley’s statement.
Second, she works in the Maricopa County attorney’s office in Arizona. (And yes, that is the very same Maricopa County where Joe Arpaio was sheriff from 1993 to 2017.)
The Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County attorney’s office has two bureaus: one for sex crimes, and one for family violence. Ms. Mitchell spent 12 years running the sex-crimes bureau, which is responsible for prosecuting felonies like child molestation and adult sexual assault, Mr. Grassley’s statement said.
Now, she is chief of the entire Special Victims Division, putting her in charge of both bureaus. She also carries the title of deputy county attorney. The statement says she is on leave from both positions.
Separately, in 2014, the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments recommended Ms. Mitchell to be one of several candidates for Maricopa County Superior Court judge, The Arizona Republic reported.
How is she regarded?
Mr. Grassley’s statement called Ms. Mitchell a “widely recognized expert on the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes,” who has frequently spoken on the subject and has instructed detectives, prosecutors and others on the best practices for interviewing victims of sex crimes.
She has won several awards. For instance, in 2006, she was named prosecutor of the year by her office; three years before that, she was recognized by Janet Napolitano, then the governor, and Terry Goddard, then the state attorney general, as the “Outstanding Arizona Sexual Assault Prosecutor of the Year.”
“She’s one of these career prosecutors who specializes in sex crimes,” Paul Ahler, who worked at the county attorney’s office years ago, told The Arizona Republic. “It’s hard to find those people because a lot of people get burned out on those issues, but it’s kind of been her life mission.”
In her own words
In an interview with FrontLine Magazine, the journal of Foundations Baptist Fellowship International, published in 2012, Ms. Mitchell said she first became familiar with issues around child sex crimes when she was paired up with a senior attorney who was working a case involving a youth choir director accused of misconduct.
“It was different than anything that I would have ever imagined it being,” she said.“It intrigued me, and I continued to do other work with that bureau chief. It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were.”
In the interview, Ms. Mitchell was questioned primarily about sex crimes by adults against children, and specifically molestation in churches.
But speaking generally, she said that the “largest misconception is that ‘stranger danger’ is the rule rather than the fairly rare exception.”
About 90 to 95 percent of victims, she said, “know the person who is offending against them.”
She also listed a second misconception: “People think that children would tell right away and that they would tell everything that happened to them. In reality children often keep this secret for years, sometimes into their adulthood, sometimes forever.”
Andrew R. Chow contributed reporting.