Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ocean City paid out $200,000 to settle teen's sex lawsuit against retired police officer.

On October 4, 2016, the City of Ocean City (Cape May County) paid $200,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a2013 high school graduate who claimed that a retired Ocean City police officer who provided school security and who was more than 30 years older than her "engaged in increasingly inappropriate behavior" toward her while she was in eleventh grade.  She also alleged that the retired officer, who hired her to inspect beach access tags during the 2012 tourist season, "penetrated [her] vagina with his penis" in their workplace shortly after her seventeenth birthday.

The woman claimed that  retired Ocean City Police Officer Charles E. Cusack would force her to perform oral sex on him and to engage in "rough" sex that involved him "choking her throat as he penetrated her."  On August 4, 2012, one of the teen's coworker allegedly entered the Beach Fee Operations office and witnessed Cusack having sex with the teen.  The coworker reported to another supervisor who reported the matter to police. 

The acts complained about in the woman's lawsuit have been widely reported and resulted in Cusack being sentenced to five years probation, forfeiture of public employment and sex offender registration after entering into a plea bargain.  According to the lawsuit, Cusack retired when he was 48 and collected an annual pension of nearly $70,000.

The case, which bears Cape May Superior Court Docket No. CPM-L-115-15 and the woman's attorneys were Michael L. Testa and Justin R. White of Vineland. Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court (although there was a plea bargain in the related criminal matter.)  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Ocean City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the woman $200,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.