Muñoz: I apologize for writing the two letters

Throughout my life, I have worked to help others. Often I have been accused of being too patient, and at times too compassionate.

The two letters I wrote in support of sentencing review unintentionally caused pain to victims of sexual abuse and for that, I sincerely apologize. I have contacted the Court and requested that the letters be disregarded.

The lessons learned are powerful and will help shape my actions into the future when addressing victims’ issues. This experience has strengthened my resolve to help create safe havens for victims to come forward without fear of retribution.

I will continue to work for the protection of victims of crime and I will build on a solid record of work to maintain and fund domestic violence shelters and transitional housing, Erin’s Law, and legislation to protect the victims of sex trafficking.

Tree years ago, the State began reviewing its criminal code which resulted in passage of SB 91 – the “crime bill.” During the debate, several aspects of the code were scrutinized for further review by the Criminal Justice Commission. One area examined was sexual crimes involving two individuals under the age of 19 years.

Critics have incorrectly stated that I attempted to change sentencing law. In fact, I requested further review by the Commission. However, after consulting with a prominent anti-domestic violence advocacy group, I withdrew my request.

Over the past two legislative cycles, my office has been highly effective in passing legislation important to Juneau. As such, many individuals and groups have become accustomed to asking me for help with possible new legislation.

Several Juneau family law attorneys expressed to me their belief that the broad definition of domestic violence should require greater judicial flexibility to provide the best outcome for Alaska families.

Thus, HB 334 attempted to provide more judicial discretion in complicated, highly-charged custody determinations.

I made a mistake in writing the two letters and I apologize. The other issues were part of a broader effort by the State of Alaska to implement a smarter criminal justice model mirroring the proven success of other states that have undertaken similar reform.

Unfortunately, these issues have been politicized without all of the facts and context under which the actions were taken. Moreover, the media storm surrounding my error in judgment is only perpetuating the hurt of those victims trying to move on to rebuild their lives.

I encourage anyone affected by any form of abuse to please reach out for help and let no one be silent when help is sought. I pledge to redouble my efforts to make it easier for the victims of child sexual abuse to come forward and ensure that justice is served for all. My door is always open and I will always listen.

Cathy Muñoz

Representative, House District 34