Katie Brennan, State of New Jersey, Murphy campaign, Al Alvarez reach $1m settlement in sexual assault suit

TRENTON (May 15, 2020)–Attorneys for Katie Brennan said on Friday that they have reached a settlement agreement in Brennan’s lawsuit against the State of New Jersey, Murphy for Governor, Inc., and Al Alvarez. Brennan came forward in October 2018 about having been raped by Alvarez when he was a senior member of Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign staff. She filed suit in January 2019.

As part of the settlement, the State of New Jersey and Murphy for Governor, Inc. will pay $1 million, of which $600,000 will go to Brennan and $400,000 will go to cover the legal costs for more than a year of work with her attorneys at Smith Eibeler, LLC. Brennan will donate the entirety of the $600,000 she will receive to The Waterfront Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Hudson County’s economically disadvantaged people–the working poor, seniors, veterans, and those living with disabilities–by providing information, advice, and pro bono legal representation to address their civil legal issues and concerns. The Waterfront Project will use the donation from Brennan to fund legal services and support for low-income survivors of sexual assault and harassment.

“The Waterfont Project is honored to play a part in making New Jersey a more equitable place for survivors of sexual assault,” said Rebecca Symes, Interim Executive Director of the Waterfront Project. “We look forward to partnering with sexual assault survivors, advocates, and policymakers to design an innovative project addressing this very complicated, but urgent need.”

“The guiding principle for The Waterfront Project has always been “justice for all.” The Waterfront Project was founded to help Hudson County’s most vulnerable residents with civil legal problems involving their most basic needs–housing, access to food and medical care, and their finances, “said Isabel Chou, Board President of the Waterfront Project. “Now, with this seed funding, The Waterfront Project will empower sexual assault survivors to get justice previously denied to many, which is only now possible because Katie made the brave decision to come forward.”

A key point of contention in the suit revolved around confidentiality requirements that prevented Brennan from speaking publicly throughout much of the past two years. In a February victory, attorneys for Murphy for Governor, Inc., agreed to the entry of a consent order permitting anyone who signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the Murphy campaign to be free to disclose facts relating to the campaign’s employment policies, practices or procedures, their personal experience and treatment, and the work environment on the campaign.

In addition, the State has agreed to a number of Brennan’s recommendations for changes to state policy, including allowing alleged victims of discrimination, harassment or retaliation to have an advisor or other support person present during interviews by an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Investigator. Finally, the State agreed to assist Brennan in her efforts to present additional proposed reforms related to the criminal justice system to New Jersey’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Council.

As part of the settlement, Alvarez will participate in a restorative justice process with Brennan.

“I hope that this can create a model program for other New Jersey survivors,” said Brennan. “Living in silence did not serve me or any other survivors in this state. Speaking out gave me great strength. From legislation and the release from NDAs, to greater awareness of harassment and assault, we’ve made great progress. Each reform sets us on a path toward justice. Each reform makes it worth the pain.”

“Yet, we have a long way to go. These conversations so often focus on the victims and the perpetrators, when really we need to talk about everyone else that’s involved that doesn’t take responsibility. Systems and culture are people. Victims, perpetrators, those in positions of power–all of us. We are all accountable for ending sexual violence.”

“Hope fuels change, and I am very hopeful. Do you accept injustice? We need the administration, the judicial system, every employer, every resident for change. Be hopeful with me. Please join the fight for reform.”

“I would like to thank my legal team at Smith Eibeler, LLC, in particular Katy McClure, Joanna Klonsky Communications Strategies, the National Women’s Law Center’s Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and everyone who has supported me throughout this process. All survivors deserve the excellent support I had. I hope to create that support for others so that a lack of legal representation is never a barrier to justice.”

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