One of four women allegedly pressured into having sex with Egg Harbor City police Detective Steven Hadley, in charges brought by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office last year, has sued the city, Hadley and Officer Christopher Hoffman.
Christine Meale, a hairdresser from Vineland, filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Camden, said her attorney Jennifer Bonjean of the Bonjean Law Group in Brooklyn, N.Y. Meale is also suing unnamed other officers in the department who she said knew of Hadley’s abuse.
Chief John McColgan said he could not comment, and Mayor Lisa Jiampetti did not return phone calls. Hadley, of Port Republic, declined to comment. Hoffman could not be reached.
The suit stated that Hadley, 32, began demanding sexual favors and drugs from Meale, 47, after small amounts of marijuana were found in her car when police stopped her in January 2013. They were after her passenger, a friend of her hairdressing client, she said, who was wanted on warrants.
The searches of her car and her person were illegal, Bonjean said on Monday, because there was no probable cause to suspect Meale of committing a crime. The search of Meale’s body by Hoffman constituted a sexual assault, involving improper touching inside her blouse, bra and pants, Bonjean said.
That search was performed while she was handcuffed on the side of the White Horse Pike, Bonjean said. Even if there had been probable cause, Bonjean said, a proper search would have had to be performed by a female officer.
Hadley came to the scene in his personal vehicle, Meale said in a phone interview on Monday, and later at the police station began his sexual harassment.
According to the suit, Hadley led Meale to believe all charges would be dropped if she became a confidential informant. She then told him she was a former drug addict who had relapsed, and turned over heroin she had sewn into her bra.
Hadley then told her, in front of Hoffman, that he would help her out in exchange for sexual favors, the suit said. It also alleges Hadley later made Meale buy him drugs for his personal use.
Hadley demanded sex in many meetings over five months at the Egg Harbor City Police Department and in other locations, according to the suit.
Meale said in a phone interview Monday she feared Hadley and believed she would be sent to prison if she didn’t cooperate.
“It darn near ruined my marriage, embarrassed my family. I have a 7-year-old daughter,” Meale said. “It’s been devastating to my family.”
The charges against Meale were never dropped. She eventually pled guilty to possession of CDS and is on probation, she said.
On Sept. 24, 2013, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain charged Hadley with four counts of official misconduct, a second-degree crime that carries five to 10 years in prison on each count and a fine of as much as $150,000.
Hadley is accused of using his position as a police officer to have sex with four women, identified in the charges only by initials, while on duty from 2010 through part of 2013.
The day of the charges Hadley, a married father of three, was in a single-vehicle crash on the Garden State Parkway in Little Egg Harbor Township, that left him badly injured.
His defense attorney Joseph Levin was served with the charges because Hadley remained hospitalized in critical condition at Temple University Hospital's Burn Center in Philadelphia.
Levin said Monday that Hadley has been charged but not indicted, and the criminal case continues.
“We have just learned of the civil suit,” Levin said. “As soon as we receive a copy we will decide the best course of action to take, and if I will represent him in that.”
Hadley had been a police officer for about nine years.
The suit alleges violations of Meale’s constitutional and civil rights and seeks damages for emotional pain and suffering; loss of enjoyment of life; fright, fear aggravation, humiliation, anxiety and emotional distress; loss of earning capacity; attorney’s fees and punitive damages. She is also seeking the exclusion of Hadley, Hoffman and other unknown officers from jobs in law enforcement.
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