‘I made a mistake’: Juneau lawmaker withdraws letters supporting convicted child abusers
Juneau Rep. Cathy Munoz has withdrawn two letters she wrote in support of sentencing review for two convicted child abusers after receiving criticism from child advocacy groups, who said the move would discourage victims from coming forward.
“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 removed from the record,” Munoz posted on her campaign page Tuesday. “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.”
In an interview earlier this month, Munoz said she wrote the letters as a friend of the two defendants in those cases, not as a lawmaker, though one of them was written on office letterhead and signed using her legislative title. In Tuesday’s letter, Munoz said she’s often been accused of being too patient and at times too compassionate.
“I made a mistake in writing the two letters and I apologize,” she wrote.
Muñoz also negated claims that she was supportive of softer sentencing in sex crime cases.
“Critics have incorrectly stated that I attempted to change sentencing law,” Muñoz said of her involvement in a debate over sex crimes involving two individuals under the age of 19 as part of an omnibus crime bill passed by the Legislature this year. “In fact, I requested further review by the commission. However, after consulting with a prominent domestic violence advocacy group, I withdrew my request.”
Munoz could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
On May 18, Munoz wrote a letter to Juneau Judge Phillip Pallenberg on behalf of Thomas Jack Jr., who was found guilty in 2010 of sexually assaulting his 11-year-old foster daughter.
“Tom’s conviction has had a profound impact on me. There have been times when I laid awake at night unable to sleep concerned over the length of his sentence and the cold reality that he may never see freedom again,” Munoz wrote to Pallenberg. “He is a hard working and honest person.”
Munoz said she thought Jack would respond well to rehabilitation.
“Coming out of a decade or more of hard on crime laws, we now know that many individuals can and should be rehabilitated when the opportunity exists,” she wrote.
In June, Munoz sent a similar letter to Judge Trevor Stevens, on behalf of Chessica Hauge, who was convicted on charges of endangering the welfare of her children by leaving them in the care of someone she knew had been convicted of child sexual abuse, according to reports by the Juneau Empire.
“Please accept my compassionate support for Chessica Hauge as she moves forward in her life under difficult circumstances,” Munoz wrote, adding that she and Hauge attended the same church. “Chessica regularly volunteers with church activities such as greeting parishioners and helping with childcare for our members.”
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