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Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office targeted victim, tort claim alleges

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A domestic violence victim claims the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office led a campaign of harassment against him in retaliation for complaints he made concerning the office’s handling of his cases.

In a tort claim, which warns public entities of a potential lawsuit, the victim alleges the office filed false charges against him, allowed others to harass him and even had his children temporarily removed from his home.

BreakingAC is withholding the victim’s name due to the nature of the charges.

The issue stems from conflicts involving then-Prosecutor Damon Tyner, who abruptly resigned two months ago without explanation, after several allegations were made against him.

An Attorney General’s Office investigation sustained several claims, including that Tyner failed to recuse himself from the victim’s cases.

The case was sparked by criminal charges filed against Anthony Hargrove in 2019, claiming he knowingly infected the victim with HIV. Another victim eventually came forward resulting in additional charges.

Tyner has a history with the victim, and is close friends with Hargrove’s father, Bishop Robert Hargrove Sr. of Cathedral Grace Family Church in Atlantic City.

In December 2019, the Attorney General’s Office reassigned all cases involving the victim to Cape May County in order “to avoid any potential conflict or appearance of conflict,” spokesman Peter Aseltine told BreakingAC at the time.

But in emails to BreakingAC and NJ.com, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Donna Weaver said that it was their office that requested the attorney general supersede in all pending cases involving the victim.

That statement named the victim, even though identities are usually redacted in such cases.

“The matters have been assigned to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office,” Weaver wrote.

But that apparently never happened.

While a Cape May County assistant prosecutor was added to his cases, the victim says he received written notification from that office that cases involving him as a victim were either not transferred or kept by Atlantic County.

In addition to four cases involving Hargrove as the defendant, there are at least two other defendants whose cases also involve the victim and were not transferred.

Katrina Smith faces three counts for allegedly harassing the victim online after the allegations about Hargrove were made public.

Another case alleges Monique Williams released sexually explicit photos of the victim and Hargrove to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, or DCPP.

BreakingAC received a copy of a letter acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill sent the victim Sept. 16 — a day before the tort claim was filed — which confirmed his office kept Williams’ case.
In the letter, Shill writes that “after considering all aspects of this case,” his office has sent it back to Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court for Williams to stand trial there.

When asked about where the cases involving the victim stand, Shill told BreakingAC that his office is “working with the Attorney General’s Office to make sure all the cases involving Mr. Hargrove … or (the victim) are in the right places.”

“Things were a little mixed up, but we’re taking care of that,” Shill added.

But the office’s only real action in the cases is to delay them to the point of not being able to properly prosecute Hargrove at all, the tort claim alleges.

Not only did the office not transfer the cases as directed, it “assigned specific staff to harass claimant in retaliation for filing complaint(s) against the office,” the claim reads.

“Sgt. Lynn Dougherty was personally assigned by Tyner, Shill and the office to harass the victim,” the claim alleges. “These corrupt counterparts engaged in a pattern of harassment and malicious prosecution in an attempt to carry out the personal vendetta Prosecutor Damon Tyner had against (the victim).”

That included claims that the victim abused one of his children.

In July, an Atlantic County grand jury was presented the case for indictment, but the state failed to mention the medical report that found no evidence of abuse, and instead said a mark on the then-13-year-old boy’s neck was a birthmark known as cafe au alit spot, and not caused by trauma, according to the medical records provided to BreakingAC.

On Aug. 31 of this year, DCPP moved to dismiss the charges against the father and reversed the findings of abuse, the tort filing claims.

The victim also claims that Tyner’s office failed to pursue witness-tampering charges against Hargrove.

After Hargrove’s charges became public, a list of men he allegedly had sex with started making the rounds on social media.

The victim believes that list was created by Hargrove to keep others from coming forward, but alleges an investigation was never conducted.

He also claims that Weaver, the office’s public information officer, “shared privileged and confidential information regarding the pending criminal charges of Anthony Hargrove and the victim” after she “became extremely intoxicated” at a cookout of a mutual friend attended by her and the victim.

The tort claim names the Atlantic and Cape May county prosecutors’ offices, the Galloway Township Police Department and DCPP.

The office has not commented on the allegations.

Photo: Anthony Hargrove, right, and former Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner.

author

Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, June 16, 2024
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