When questioning begins Thursday of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, it will be led by longtime Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell

By Diane Herbst
September 26, 2018 08:32 PM
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Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty; Jack Kurtz/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool

When questioning begins Thursday of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her, it will be led by a longtime Arizona sex crimes prosecutor.

Rachel Mitchell, chief of the special victims division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, has worked as a prosecutor for 26 years and headed the bureau responsible for prosecuting child molestation, adult sexual assault, and sex-related cold cases, according to the Arizona Republic.

Mitchell’s most high-profile case until now involved the prosecution of Catholic priest Paul LeBrun, sentenced in 2005 to 111 years in prison for molesting six young boys between the ages of 11 and 13 in the late 1980s to early ’90s, according to The Washington Post.

Maricopa County defense attorney Rhonda Neff tells the Phoenix New Times that Mitchell “is known as a very good trial attorney and a very direct trial attorney. I will assume her questions will be very direct and very understandable. I don’t think she’ll beat around the bush.”

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Mitchell’s boss, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, describes her as a “professional, fair, objective prosecutor” with a “caring heart” for victims, according to the Arizona Republic.

Mitchell was hired earlier this week to lead the high-stakes questioning of Kavanaugh and Ford by the 11 all-male Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mitchell first decided to deal with sex crimes against children while working on a case involving a youth choir director while she was a law clerk, she said in a FrontLine magazine story.

“It was different than anything that I would have ever imagined it being,” she said. “It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were.”

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Mitchell’s career continued to focus on sex crimes involving children, with cases from child molestation to those involving computer sex crimes, and she has trained others how to deal with children who are victims of abuse.

Not all of Mitchell’s cases have resulted in positive results for victims. The Phoenix New Times reported that Mitchell faced criticism about her handling of a plea deal she helped negotiate with a former Jehovah’s Witness elder following his admission of sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1980s.

Following the plea, which resulted in a reduced six-month jail sentence, the victim twice tried to die by suicide.

In explaining the plea deal, Mitchell told New Times that it would have been hard to prove one of the incidents of the alleged abuse because the victim couldn’t determine when it happened.

Ford told the Washington Post that during a high school party in the early 1980s, an allegedly drunk Kavanaugh held her down to a bed, groped her, grinded his body against hers and tried to take off her bathing suit.

Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual assault. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, he said, “I never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. The girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.”

If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).