BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The Gallatin County attorney is creating a task force to look at more than 100 cases — the majority alleging sexual violence — that her predecessor's office apparently did not review to see if charges could still be brought.
Audrey Cromwell said Wednesday that in going through her new offices she found boxes under a desk and in a closet containing 113 requests for prosecution that she said had not been reviewed.
The cases included 53 investigations of violent rape, 20 sexual assault cases, 14 domestic violence cases, eight incest cases and seven cases alleging sexual abuse against children, among others. Fifty-two of the cases include some form of sexual violence against children, Cromwell said.
“Clearly these cases were deprioritized by the former administration,” Cromwell said in a statement. “No action had been taken on any of these cases, with the longest case sitting for the past 14 years.”
A phone message seeking comment left at a number believed to belong to former county attorney Marty Lambert was not immediately returned. Lambert had been county attorney for 26 years before he lost to Cromwell in the November 2022 election.
“I want to be clear that law enforcement did everything properly,” Cromwell said. “The failure has been at the County Attorney's Office, and that stops now.”
Cromwell said she knew the cases hadn't been reviewed because they were not in the office's case management system.
“So what the process looks like on our end is when a deputy sends a case for review to our office, the county attorney or the chief criminal county attorney will take a quick look at that case and assign it to an attorney to review it and open it. And none of these cases have been opened,” she said during a news conference Wednesday.
The task force will include Cromwell, prosecutors in Bozeman, Belgrade and West Yellowstone, along with a sheriff's detective and a victim's advocate.
“I am heartbroken for the victims of these violent crimes whose trauma was not acknowledged,” Cromwell said in a statement. “I know you have been further traumatized by the failure of the criminal justice system in our county.”
Kelsen Young, executive director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said she had not heard about the county attorney's allegations Wednesday and did not want to comment until she learned more.