Katie Brennan settles lawsuit with the state and Murphy campaign for $1 million

Katie Brennan

Jersey City resident Katie Brennan, former volunteer for Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign, who accused a senior official of his administration of rape, will receive $1 million, according to a settlement announced on May 15 by the state.

The State of New Jersey will pay $800,000 toward the settlement, and Murphy for Governor, Inc.’s insurer will pay $200,000.  The State of New Jersey will also pay the civil case’s mediator fees, which total approximately $20,000. Of the funds,  $400,000 will go to Brennan’s attorney fees and $600,000  will go to a  charity of Brennan’s choice to improve the health and welfare of survivors of sexual assault.

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“Speaking out gave me strength,” Brennan said. “My position allowed me to advocate on behalf of myself and other survivors. This $600,000.00 fund will allow low-income survivors in Hudson County to seek justice, who may not otherwise be able. We have made great progress through awareness, legislation, and the reforms in this agreement. This is just the beginning. Victims, perpetrators, all of us – we are all accountable for ending sexual violence. There cannot be any bystanders.”

According to Brennan, the entire $600,000 will be donated to the Waterfront Project, a  nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Hudson County’s economically disadvantaged people 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 Interim Executive Director of the Waterfront Project Rebecca Symes. “We look forward to partnering with sexual assault survivors, advocates, and policymakers to design an innovative project addressing this very complicated, but urgent need.”

As a result of the settlement, the state will also implement key survivor-centric policy reforms, including allowing state employees who are alleged victims of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation to have an advisor or support person accompany them when he or she is interviewed by an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) investigator. The state will also give Brennan an opportunity to make a presentation about additional proposed policy reforms to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Council, established by the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.

“This case – and this resolution – should serve as a beacon of hope to other survivors, to those who are thinking about coming forward, to those who have been afraid to come forward, and to those who have come forward and not received justice,” said Katy McClure, Brennan’s attorney and partner at Smith Libeler,LLC. “It is rare in civil litigation to achieve significant policy reforms, but it has always been Katie Brennan’s intention to create change. New Jersey is a stronger, better place for survivors – and will continue to improve – thanks to Katie’s commitment to change including establishing a fund to improve the health and welfare of victims of sexual assault.”

Katie Brennan filed a complaint in April 2017 against Albert Alvarez, who served as director for Latino outreach for Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign, alleging he raped her in an apartment in Jersey City. But the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and the  Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office decided not to prosecute citing a “a lack of credible evidence that a crime was committed.”

As part of the settlement, Alvarez and  Brennan have agreed to participate in a Restorative Justice process, and Alvarez also has agreed to attend an anti-sexual harassment class. In settling the matter, the parties have made no admission of wrongdoing or liability with respect to the various claims among them.

“This is a fair and reasonable settlement,” said John P. Lacey of the law firm Connell Foley LLP, who represented the state. “The State of New Jersey was pleased to resolve this civil litigation with Ms. Brennan and work collaboratively and constructively with her and her counsel to institute meaningful long-term policy reforms to support survivors in the workplace.”

Under the final settlement agreement, all parties have agreed to dismiss their claims, counterclaims, and cross-claims with prejudice and have further agreed that there will be no further litigation among these parties or family members, affiliates, agencies, or authorities.

The lawsuit was pending in state Superior Court in Mercer County.