Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg received a special award on Sunday from the National District Attorneys Association recognizing him for his over two-year battle with the Department of Justice over sexual assault investigations. 

In his office on Tuesday, Van Valkenburg said he was humbled by the award which was presented in Denver.

"It was quite an honor, and something that I'm very appreciative of," Van Valkenburg said. "I think that people thought it was important that the first time the Department iof Justice did this against an elected prosecutor in the country, it was very important that someone stood up to them and challenged their authority. We did that here, and we were successful."

Van Valkenburg said after his over two-year fight with the DOJ, he hopes the government will pause before repeating the attempt with another local prosecutor.

"They were very supportive of me behind the scenes and encouraged me to take the stance that I did, and because we took that stance, the Department of Justice will be very reluctant to go after any prosecutor in the future who is simply doing his job and not violating anyone's rights," he said. "At the same time, none of them actually wanted to join the suit, so we had to pursue this on our own. I think there was some reluctance just because of the subject matter, which was sexual assault. I think it's very difficult to take any sort of stand that isn't considered politically incorrect. So, while people were very supportive, it was something we had to do pretty much on our own."

Van Valkenburg said one of the most gratifying aspects of the award was that it would put a positive note on his record as he prepares to wrap up his career in public service.

"It's very nice to get an organization like the National District Attorney's Association to recognize that effort," he said. "I've had a long career, both as an elected official and in public life, and I certainly didn't want to end it with some sort of cloud over me, and this award certainly goes a long way towards removing that."

Van Valkenburg began his dispute with the Department of Justice on May 1, 2012, when the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division came to Missoula to investigate the way the city and it's law enforcement entities were investigating sexual assaults. Van Valkenburg told Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez in  no uncertain terms that he would not cooperate with the investigation, and that the DOJ's effort to interfere in a local prosecutor's office in that manner was unprecedented in American jurisprudence. Linked with this story, is the original audio file of Van Valkenburg's response to the DOJ.

Van Valkenburg maintained that stand until Attorney General Tim Fox helped to broker an agreement that stopped Van Valkenburg's civil suit against the DOJ in June. Linked to this story are Van Valkenburg's final comments to the DOJ.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg


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