ATLANTIC CITY - An administrative investigation into a sexual incident involving young women and on-duty firefighters got some help Thursday from the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office - but not everything the city wants.
Prosecutor Ted Housel has agreed to give Mayor Lorenzo Langford's office copies of statements from the teens about the incident to determine whether any of the men involved should face administrative punishment.
In exchange, he said the city has given written assurance that the teens' identities and what they told investigators will not be made public. But it's still not clear what will happen to statements firefighters gave in the investigation, and it prompted Langford to issue the county with a subpoena for all the records.
"We will be discussing that in the near future," Housel said of the additional information sought.
The only specifics made public on what may have taken place inside Fire Station 2 are in tort claims filed on the teens' behalf. A firefighter allegedly had the girls touch his genitals then sexually gratified himself in front of them on May 16, the legal filings say, adding that at least four other firefighters were there at the time. The girls are black; the firefighters white.
On Wednesday, Housel announced he found no proof that the allegations called for criminal charges because nothing appeared forced and all involved were at least 16, the age of consent in New Jersey.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford responded by formally requesting "any and all statements, documents, photographs and other materials" related to the investigation, according to a letter sent to Housel on Thursday. Housel said he would turn over the information only if it was not released to the public. In the end, Housel only agreed to release the statements of the females involved.
As his administration searches for more answers, Langford promised Thursday that his investigation would result in penalties against someone.
"Somebody's head is going to roll when all is said and done," he said.
Langford also said he does not believe the possibility of criminal charges died Wednesday when Housel deemed his investigation complete. The mayor said he intends to call Gov. Jon S. Corzine and urge him to ensure Attorney General Anne Milgram intervenes. He also sent Milgram a similar request in writing.
Meanwhile, various local activists blasted Housel and his decision Thursday, many accusing him of racism.
"Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel has made a mockery of justice in the ACFD investigation," Atlantic City NAACP President John Lyles-Belton wrote in a letter sent to the media Thursday. "His decision to not file charges ... reeks with the stench of racism, sexism and discrimination."
Lyles-Belton also called for Housel's resignation - or firing.
While Langford did not go that far, he said he "wouldn't disagree with those making that call."
"My decision had nothing to do with the race of the parties and would have been the same (regardless of race)," Housel said upon hearing those charges. "Consensual relations between members of different races is not nor should it be a crime.
"As to sexism, I have four daughters 18 years and younger," he added. "That fact should speak for itself."
National Action Network members rallied outside the Viking Academy on Thursday morning, the city's alternative high school across the street from the firehouse. Group members said they will be there from 7:30 to 8:30 every morning to protect the students.
"I don't have a problem as long as there's no interference with the students," Superintendent Fredrick Nickles said. "We'll have our security people out there in the morning just to monitor to make sure everything is running smoothly."
The group - headed by Steve Young - said it wanted to take down the "Safe Place" sign that hangs on a brick outer wall of the firehouse just 82 steps away from the Viking Academy's entrance.
"I understand their outrage," Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said. "But we have to continue as a Fire Department and move forward."
Staff writer Dan Good contributed to this report.
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