GOP picks female prosecutor to question Kavanaugh, Ford

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Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell listens to Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. | AP photo

PHOENIX — Senate Republicans are bringing in Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to handle questioning about allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, describing her as tough, experienced and, above all, objective.

Mitchell, a Republican, was expected to question both Kavanaugh and his accuser at Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her when they were teenagers has predictably raised a political storm in the #MeToo era and the GOP’s all-male presence on the panel made some want a woman to question Ford.

Mitchell works in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix as the chief of the Special Victims Division. She supervises attorneys who handle cases involving child molestation, sexual assault and computer crimes against children in Arizona’s most populous county.

Mitchell, who has decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, “has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity,” committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said in a statement Tuesday.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Mitchell’s boss, praised her experience in an interview with the Arizona Republic, calling her an “objective prosecutor” who has a “caring heart” for victims. He said he was contacted by staff members of the Judiciary Committee over the weekend about Mitchell’s qualifications.

In July 2014, Mitchell prosecuted a former church volunteer in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale who molested children in his care as a church baby sitter and camp counselor over a seven-year period. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison with lifetime probation.

“People want to go to a church on a Sunday and feel safe,” Mitchell said at the time, adding that the settings of his actions “should be taken into account.”

In 2015, Mitchell prosecuted a 13-year veteran of the Mesa Police Department who groped two women, one of whom had passed out.

She has been named Arizona’s Outstanding Sexual Assault Prosecutor as well as Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Prosecutor of the Year.

Last year, the county attorney’s office introduced a sex crimes protocol — the first in its history. The new policy manual will ensure that prosecutors have a guide “so that we can do the best we can for victims,” Mitchell told a local NPR station.

“It’s always hard to know which victims were not victims or which people were not victims because your system worked,” Mitchell said in a January interview with Phoenix radio station KJZZ.

Associated Press journalists Walter Berry and Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report.

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