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TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced that a Vernon Township police officer was indicted today for allegedly groping and attempting to sexually assault a woman while on duty after interacting with the woman in his official capacity as a police officer in 2019. The officer is also charged in connection with two prior alleged incidents in 2014 and 2015 in which he improperly used his position to obtain the phone numbers of female motorists.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Police Officer Emanuel Rivera, 37, of Vernon Township, N.J., with the following offenses:
- Official Misconduct (Three Counts, 2nd Degree)
- Pattern of Official Misconduct (2nd Degree)
- Attempted Sexual Assault (2nd Degree)
- Criminal Sexual Contact (4th Degree)
Rivera is being prosecuted jointly by OPIA and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office. He was initially investigated by the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, which charged him by complaint with official misconduct and criminal sexual contact in 2020 in connection with the alleged 2019 incident. The investigation began with a referral from the Vernon Township Police Department.
The investigation revealed that on May 11, 2019, Rivera, in his official capacity as a police officer, responded to a call at a residence in Vernon Township, where he met a woman and the woman’s ex-boyfriend. Before leaving the residence, the woman informed the responding officers that she would spend the night at a friend’s house in a particular area of Vernon.
The woman was unable to contact her friend and decided to sleep in her car near her friend’s house. Shortly after parking her car, the woman allegedly was approached by Rivera, who was still on duty. Rivera allegedly made inappropriate sexual remarks to the woman and groped her. Rivera then allegedly directed the victim to follow his patrol vehicle, and he led the woman in her car to an abandoned church in Vernon, where he parked behind the church. Rivera allegedly approached the victim and directed her to exit her car. Rivera then allegedly groped the victim again and attempted to sexually assault the victim. Rivera subsequently returned to work, and the victim immediately reported the alleged assault to a friend.
After charging Rivera in connection with that alleged incident, the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office investigated additional allegations that two other women had been subject to advances by Officer Rivera after Rivera obtained their cell phone numbers through his position as a police officer, one in late 2014 and the other in June or July 2015.
“We expect New Jersey’s police officers to maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “Officers who abuse the public’s trust can and must be held accountable.”
“We have zero tolerance for law enforcement officers who abuse their authority and engage in this type of predatory behavior,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “We urge victims and others with information about such misconduct to contact us.”
“All law enforcement officers have a sacred trust to the public to protect them and to uphold the law,” said Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch. “Any deviation from this sworn duty will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the full extent possible.”
The indictment is posted online at:
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The official misconduct charges carry a mandatory minimum term of five years of parole ineligibility. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Deputy Attorney General Eric C. Cohen of the OPIA Corruption Bureau is prosecuting the case jointly with First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione, and Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch.
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
Defense Attorney: John J. Bruno Jr., Esq., Bruno & Ferraro, Rutherford, N.J.