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Gallatin County forms joint task force to handle unprosecuted sex crimes

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The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office has formed a joint task force to handle more than 100 unprosecuted sex crimes and domestic violence cases that were found in an empty office in January.

The case files stretch back to 2008 and total 113 cases, including 52 that involve some form of sexual violence against children, according to a Gallatin County press release. The files are “Request for Prosecutions,” which are investigations submitted by law enforcement agencies to the county attorney’s office for review. Once reviewed, the office decides whether to prosecute.

Gallatin County Attorney Audrey Cromwell stated in the release that the cases were deprioritized by the former administration. In last November’s election, Cromwell unseated incumbent Marty Lambert, who had served as county attorney for 39 years.

“Once I realized what they were, it made me sick to my stomach,” Cromwell stated in the release. “I campaigned on a promise to address crimes involving sexual violence and I will.”

The multi-agency joint task force will include Cromwell; Jane Mersen, town attorney for Manhattan and West Yellowstone; Mike Emens, detective with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office; April Waltee, victim advocate with Gallatin County Victim Services; and prosecutors from the cities of Bozeman and Belgrade, the release states.

Cromwell emphasized in the press release that “law enforcement did everything properly” and that the failure occurred at the county attorney’s office.

The 113 cases include 53 violent rape cases, 20 sexual assault cases, 14 domestic violence cases, eight incest cases and seven sexual abuse against children cases, among others, according to the release. Of the cases, 42% originated from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, 37% from the Bozeman Police Department and 22% from the Belgrade Police Department.

Also in the release, Cromwell lobbied the Gallatin County Commission to fund additional attorney positions so that her office has the staff needed to review all new requests for prosecution on sexual violence cases within two weeks.

“I am proud of my community—that this Joint Task Force with personnel from Gallatin County, the City of Bozeman, and City of Belgrade are all willing to come together in service to our community to review and prosecute these cases and ensure that this never happens again,” Cromwell stated.

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