HELENA – The U.S. attorney for Montana has hired a prosecutor to focus on civil rights, part of a nationwide push by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The job will be handled Brendan McCarthy, an assistant U.S. attorney for the past four years, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Sunday.
“We’ve always done (civil rights cases), but we’ve not had a dedicated position, so we’ve had to partner with main Justice and the Civil Rights Division” in Washington, U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter said. “With this particular position, we’ll have a greater capacity to handle these cases.”
Cotter declined to speculate on what affect President Donald Trump’s election will have on the office.
Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, to be attorney general. Some groups have questioned Sessions’ commitment to civil rights, but he said he will defend freedom and equality.
Cotter said hate crimes and hate rhetoric have been increasing in the state. The FBI reported 30 hate crimes in Montana in 2014 and 45 in 2015.
Most involved race, but the fastest-growing category was religion.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, Montana Human Rights Network, tribal leaders and others welcomed the new position.
“Montana might not be the most diverse state, but we have all of the same issues others face in threats to civil rights,” said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana. “It’s good for people to know they have another place they can go to with complaints.”
In 2012, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division launched an investigation into allegations that the Missoula Police Department, the University of Montana police and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office mishandled sexual assaults. The investigation began after 11 assaults involving university students were reported over 18 months, and it was expanded to include sexual assaults reported across the city over three years.
It led to four agreements with the police department, the University of Montana and its police and the Missoula County attorney’s office to improve how they handle rape cases.
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