Rachel Mitchell has been selected by the Senate Judiciary Committee to assist Republican lawmakers in questioning the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, alleged Kavanaugh assaulted her while at a house party in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. She said he pinned her to a bed, attempted to forcibly remove her clothes and prevented her from screaming.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations.
The GOP side of the Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 men – which could have sent an unwanted message on live television against the backdrop of the #MeToo era during the questioning of Ford’s accusations. Two days before the scheduled Sept. 27 hearing, the committee announced the selection of Mitchell to question Ford.
“I’m very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “Ms. Mitchell has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity.”
Grassley said he hired Mitchell because he wants a hearing that “is safe, comfortable and dignified” for both Ford and Kavanaugh. He said the “goal” of Mitchell’s hiring is to “de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns.”
Read on for a look at Mitchell’s long career and where she stands politically.
Mitchell has been a prosecutor since 1993
Mitchell works in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix as the chief of the Special Victims Division and deputy county attorney. Maricopa is Arizona’s most populous county. She is currently on leave.
She spent more than a decade supervising attorneys who handle sex-related crimes, including sexual assault, child molestation and prostitution and computer crimes against children. She was also in charge of a satellite bureau that prosecuted such crimes as well as domestic violence and elder abuse, according to the Judiciary Committee.
Her boss, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, told the Arizona Republic that Mitchell is a “professional, fair, objective prosecutor” and has a “caring heart” for victims.
Paul Ahler, who formerly worked in the County Attorney’s Office described Mitchell’s “life mission” as specializing in sex crimes.
The county prosecutor’s office is entirely distinct from the sheriff’s office in Maricopa County, which was led by the controversial Joe Arpaio until last year.
Mitchell said she became involved with this line of work when she was a law clerk and still awaiting her bar exam results. She had been paired with an attorney who worked to prosecute a youth choir director.
“It intrigued me, and I continued to do other work with that bureau chief. It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were,” she told FrontLine magazine in 2011. “I prosecuted other kinds of cases, but I was drawn back to this area.”
She’s been recognized for her work
She was named the County Attorney’s Office Prosecutor of the Year in 2006; in 2003, she was recognized by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard as an outstanding sexual assault prosecutor.
Mitchell was also awarded the David R. White Excellence in Victim Advocacy Award in 2013, given by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council.
According to the Arizona Republican, Mitchell was on a list of names to be considered for a Maricopa County Superior Court judgeship in 2014.
In announcing her appointment to the Kavanaugh hearing, the Judiciary Committee noted that as an expert on sex crimes prosecution, Mitchell has also served as an instructor and speaker on the topic. She’s said herself that she works with churches to educate them on mandatory reporting and talks to parents about preventative measures for computer sex crimes committed against children.
She’s prosecuted church members, police officers
Mitchell, in 2015, prosecuted a 13-year veteran of the Mesa Police Department who groped two women, one of whom was passed out at the time.
A year earlier, she prosecuted a former church volunteer in Scottsdale who molested children in his care as a church babysitter 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 then.
In 2005, she led the prosecution of former Catholic priest Paul LeBrun, who was sentenced to 111 years in prison for molesting young boys in Arizona. She called the sentencing “vindication” for the victims.
“It’s very hard to comprehend how someone can establish a trusting relationship with a child and then betray it,” she said in that case.
Mitchell is a Republican
Mitchell is a registered Republican.
According to The Washington Post, she has contributed financially to the campaign of Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s attorney general.
However, Cindi Nannetti, her former boss, told the newspaper Mitchell will handle her new task as “a professional” with “the utmost respect to the committee.”
She does not play politics when it comes to anything involving her work,” Nannetti said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.