Two former Atlantic County police officers were allowed to sexually victimize a mentally disabled girl with help from those who either ignored their actions or covered them up, according to a lawsuit pending in Superior Court.
Former Atlantic City Police Officer Andre Corbin and former Brigantine Officer Ralph Pereira pleaded guilty in 2015 to sexually assaulting the unnamed girl, including abuse and inappropriate correspondence that happened while in uniform and on duty.
The 50-page filing names the cities of Atlantic City and Brigantine, their respective police departments, several chiefs and the two officers, who are each serving five-year sentences for sexually assaulting the teenage girl, who had been previously disabled due to a traumatic brain injury.
“We’re just seeking justice on behalf of our client,” Morristown attorney Scott Leonard told BreakingAC. “They need to have safeguards in place to protect members of the public from rogue officers. There need to be proper checks and balances, especially for people in positions of authority.”
The 26-count suit alleges both departments and their then-leaders were aware of the abuse or should have been, and did nothing to stop it nor implement the proper policies to “monitor, supervise and train and re-train against harassment,” says the suit filed on behalf of the girl by her mother, identified only as L.M., and her court-appointed guardian, attorney Joseph Grassi.
“The people who were supposed to serve and protect made her a victim,” said Leonard.
Corbin already had five arrests when he was hired as an Atlantic City police officer in 2005. He also had four arrests as a juvenile, mostly for drug-related offenses, according to information provided in court .
“I think it’s very troubling that the people who are supposed to protect and serve the citizens would have such an extensive criminal background,” Leonard said. “What did they do to make sure public was safe from him?”
In 2008, after three years as a police officer, Corbin was accused of aggravated sexual assault causing serious bodily injury. But Corbin’s duties were not modified in any way as a result, according to the suit.
The charge was dropped the next year because there wasn’t enough evidence, court records show.
The lawsuit gives some insight into the case, and how the officers went about allegedly “grooming” the girl to become their sexual victim.
Pereira first met the girl around 2009 or 2010, when police were called to her family’s home.
According to the suit, in late 2012, he “began sending suggestive, pornographic and inappropriate text messages” to the girl and gave her vodka in a water bottle, which she drank and took to school.
The abuse from December 2012 until May 2014, included humiliation, intimidation, molestation and rape, the lawsuit says.
Corbin met the then-16-year-old girl at the Popeye’s Chicken Restaurant in Atlantic City, the suit says.
He then “ingratiated himself to Jane Doe and her family,” including offering to act as an Arabic translator for the family while her father was hospitalized receiving treatment for a terminal illness.
But outside the AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, Corbin had the girl inside his police cruiser, where he touched and digitally penetrated her, according to the lawsuit. He attempted to perform sex act on her, but was restricted by the space in the car, it says.
He forced her to perform a sex act on him on more than one occasion, including when he took her to the Applebee’s in his patrol car, the suit claims.
The girl continues to have “a lot of significant issues” as a result of the assault, Leonard said. “We want to make sure, to the extent we can, that these type of things don’t happen to other children.”
Right now, several Brigantine police chiefs are named but only current Chief Henry White is named for Atlantic City. But he did not become chief until December 2013, after the assaults occurred.
Leonard said they are still awaiting discovery including personnel records and that the suit will be updated with other names if warranted.
Corbin is eligible for parole in August. Pereira is eligible in December 2018.