On Tuesday county prosecutor Michaela Andruzzi will be recognized for her work preventing sexual assaults. The only trouble is, argue several rape victims, DA Sim Gill has taken her off prosecutions.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center will be awarding Andruzzi their annual Visionary Voice award after the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault [UCASA] nominated her. The ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. at the Hive gallery in Trolley Square on Tuesday.
UCASA's administrative assistant Deborah Dilley said her organized nominated Andruzzi, "because she has an amazing conviction rate." UCASA's nomination of Andruzzi, who did not respond to several requests for comment, described her as "a dedicated attorney working for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the state of Utah."
Andruzzi was featured in a fall 2010 CW cover story about rape prosecutions and serial rapist Azlen Marchet, called Faces of Rape. At that time she was head of the domestic violence unit, which was solely dedicated to prosecuting DV perpetrators. But after Sim Gill defeated incumbent DA Lohra Miller in the November election, the DV unit was disbanded.
Marchet victim Jessica Campbell angrily questions why Gill "has taken Michaela's power away. She's in a secretarial position. She loves to prosecute but now she doesn't get to do it. I am almost fearful for victims." "Laila," whose rape case against Marchet was the last to be prosecuted, questions whether often inexperienced prosecutors at the county "understand what victims go through."
Andruzzi, "Laila" says, is passionate about sexual crimes prosecutions. "It takes a special person to prosecute them.""Laila", along with several other victims, originally had their cases declined by the DA's office. Andruzzi was "our champion. If it wasn't for her, Marchet would still be on the street. It's frightening and its' sad."
Gill says when he took over the office, his concern was the "totality" of the office and he folded the specialist teams Miller had set up, DV, DUI and elder abuse into other teams he created, notably a Violent Crimes unit, into which he moved the DV prosecutors. Andruzzi, he says, was offered two positions, either as a prosecutor in the violent gang unit, or as leader of the "restitution recovery team," a unit he set up as part of his "victim-centered approach" to hold offenders accountable. She accepted the latter.
"While I appreciate passion about specifics," he says, "my obligation is to the entire office."