FACT CHECK: Did The GOP’s Pick To Question Kavanaugh’s Accuser Work For Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

People on Twitter suggested that Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans have picked to question witnesses about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, worked for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“Only this crowd of clueless old white guys wold [sic] pick someone from Sheriff Joe’s operation,” Jennifer Rubin, a blogger for The Washington Post, said in a tweet Tuesday.

“The female prosecutor chosen by ‘The Republican Men of the Senate Judiciary Committee!’ is Rachel Mitchell, former prosecutor under Joe Arpaio of Arizona,” actor and New York congressional candidate J.G. Hertzler said Tuesday.

Other laypeople on Twitter claimed that Mitchell worked for Arpaio as well.

“Mitchell was a prosecutor for sex crimes…<drum roll please>…under sheriff Joe Arpaio!” one user said Tuesday.

“Can you imagine the softball questions Kavanaugh will face by Rachel Mitchell – a Republican prosecutor who worked as the Sex Crimes Bureau Chief for Sheriff Joe Arpaio????” said another tweet Tuesday.

“Mitchell was hired by Sheriff Joe Arpaio 26 years ago,” another Twitter user said Tuesday,

Verdict: False

Mitchell works in the Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Arizona. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which Arpaio headed, is a separate entity.

Fact Check:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement Tuesday night that he had asked Mitchell to question witnesses at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing Thursday. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University who alleges that Kavanaugh attempted to “disrobe” her and put his hand over her mouth at a house party when they were teenagers in the early 1980s, is scheduled to testify.

Mitchell is a career prosecutor who has worked for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for 26 years. For 12 of those years, she ran the sex-crimes bureau in the Special Victims Division.

The attorney’s office in Maricopa County is separate from the sheriff’s office. “Prosecutors have an independent role in the criminal justice system,” a spokesperson for the attorney’s office told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “The county attorney’s office does not work for the sheriff’s office we work for the people.”

Brahm Resnik, a reporter for Phoenix television station KPNX, explained in a tweet Tuesday that the Maricopa County attorney and sheriff are two separate elected offices. He noted that Mitchell has worked under at least three county attorneys.

Arpaio, who served as the Maricopa County sheriff from 1993 through 2016, was accused of misconduct including failure to adequately investigate sex crimes, overseeing harsh jail conditions and abuses of power. He was convicted of criminal contempt in 2017 for defying a court order to stop targeting suspected illegal immigrants. President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio shortly thereafter.

Mitchell worked in the attorney’s office during Arpaio’s tenure, including when the sheriff’s office failed to sufficiently investigate hundreds of sex crimes reported between 2005 and 2007. The prosecutors were not necessarily responsible for the neglect, though.

“Prosecutors can’t prosecute what cops don’t investigate,” Resnik said in a tweet. “Arpaio didn’t investigate the sex crimes. That was the scandal.”

Cindi Nannetti, Mitchell’s predecessor and former boss, told WaPo that Mitchell helped figure out which cases were still viable after the files were turned over to the attorney’s office. She said that Mitchell also conducted training for the sheriff’s office in order to prevent similar neglect in the future.

Rubin clarified in another tweet Wednesday that while the county attorney represents the sheriff, Mitchell did not. “She works in sex crimes division,” she said.

NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard reported in a tweet Tuesday that Arpaio said that he does not know who Mitchell is or where she worked.

Rubin declined to provide on-the-record comment to TheDCNF. Hertzler did not respond to requests for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter

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