Ex-N.J. Official Accused of Assault Says Sex Was Consensual

(Bloomberg) -- Albert J. Alvarez, in his first public comments since being accused of sexual assault by a fellow aide to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, said the contact was consensual and the allegations have ravaged him and his family.

Alvarez hasn’t been criminally charged. He resigned in October as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority as his accuser was about to go public. He testified today in Trenton before a legislative panel that is examining the allegation, by New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan, and developing policy on the state’s internal handling of such complaints.

“The sexual contact between myself and Ms. Brennan was consensual,” Alvarez, a divorced father of two, said in an opening statement. The accusation, he said, has “devastated my career and brought an emotional toll on myself and my loved ones.”

Among the legislators’ questions is who hired Alvarez even as top staffers were aware of the Brennan matter.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Alvarez said to Michael Critchley Sr., the Roseland trial attorney hired by the legislative committee to lead questioning. He named staffers with whom he had met to discuss payroll, job duties and parking, and cited an employment letter, but didn’t name a person who told him the job was his. "I would agree that’s unusual in most settings,” Alvarez said.

Critchley, who pressed him multiple times to no avail, responded: “You hired yourself.”

The governor, his campaign director, his chief counsel and his former chief of staff have said they don’t know who signed off on Alvarez.

Brennan, who is married, testified earlier to the panel that Alvarez assaulted her in April 2017, when she was a Murphy campaign volunteer and he was an employee in charge of Hispanic and Muslim outreach. Prosecutors in Hudson and Middlesex counties declined to file criminal charges, citing a lack of evidence.

Alvarez resigned as the Wall Street Journal was readying a report on how he stayed employed after Brennan reported her allegations to Murphy advisers, and even to Murphy himself.

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