ATLANTIC CITY - The city disciplined the three men in charge the night a firefighter invited young women into a fully staffed firehouse and asked them to perform sexual acts, city officials said Thursday.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford would not name the three men but said they included two captains and the firefighter on watch. They were on duty when four females - including a 19-year-old and two 16-year-olds - were invited inside Station 2 at Indiana and Baltic avenues and certain sexual acts allegedly took place with firefighter Richard Williams Jr. The eight-year department veteran was suspended without pay Tuesday evening.
Langford held a news conference Thursday to discuss the investigation as well as his directive to remove the city's police dogs from the streets pending an investigation into brutality allegations.
For the first time, someone in the administration detailed the accusations against Williams and the other firefighters who were in the station the night of May 16.
City Solicitor Robert Tarver said at least one of the teens "donned fire equipment and was photographed wearing that equipment." The information matches previous accounts by the activist group National Action Network, which said a teen's mother went to police in June with a cell phone photo.
One or m ore of the teens was then asked to remove her clothing and was then "requested to perform sexual acts," Tarver said.
The firehouse was fully staffed at the time, overseen by two captains, who both have been disciplined. The "man on watch," who is supposed to know who is going in and out of the firehouse, was also punished, Langford said. He would not specify what action was taken.
The administrative investigation follows a criminal one headed by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office that resulted in no charges. Langford said he does not agree with that assessment, especially the finding that the alleged incident was not a case of official misconduct. He distributed a copy of a letter sent to state Attorney General Anne Milgram, asking her office to investigate.
"He has the right to do so," Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said of the mayor's request.
"Please be advised, we respectfully disagree with at least a portion of the analysis made by the prosecutor as related to official misconduct," Langford wrote to Milgram. "At least a portion of the evidence suggests that firefighters dressed minors in their official gear in order to take photographs. I have been made aware that existing case law in the state of New Jersey makes clear that where an individual uses public resources to further illicit relationships, that activity can constitute official misconduct."
He added that discussions with his legal staff led him to believe there was ample evidence to present to a grand jury on that charge.
"I believe a prosecutor could find an area of the law to find some charge to present to a grand jury," Langford told the media gathered Thursday.
Housel previously gave the city copies of statements the teens gave as part of the criminal investigation. He was scheduled to turn over the firefighters' interviews Thursday.
Tarver said that while there is no formal agreement to keep that information out of the public, "we certainly aren't going to do anything that will complicate our investigation. We will act appropriately."
"If the allegations are true," Langford said, "I want to terminate immediately if not sooner all persons involved."
Williams' attorney, Joseph Levin, previously called the allegations "patently false," and charged that the mayor is using the incident for political gain.
"Hopefully, in this case, money and politics are trumped by justice," Levin said. "Mr. Williams wholeheartedly agrees and looks forward to justice prevailing here."
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