On January 20, 2022, Atlantic County Superior Court Judge John C. Porto approved a $1.1 million settlement of a disabled woman’s August 19, 2016 lawsuit in which she claimed that two police officers–one from Brigantine and the other from Atlantic City–groomed her as their sexual victim when she was a child.

The woman, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe, was disabled due to a traumatic brain injury she suffered as a child. She said she met Brigantine Police Officer Ralph Pereira when he responded to her family’s Brigantine home in 2009 or 2010 for a 911 call. She was 13 or 14 years old at the time. For the next three years, Pereira texted her photographs of his genitals, gave her vodka in a water bottle, performed oral sex on her, penetrated her and videotaped her while she was naked, according to the lawsuit. Brigantine city and police officials were allegedly aware of Pereira’s actions as of September 25, 2013 but took no action until he was arrested on May 19, 2014.

Jane Doe said that she met Atlantic City Police Officer Andre L. Corbin at Popeye’s Chicken Restaurant in 2013 when she was sixteen. Corbin, she said, “ingratiated himself” to her family by offering to act as an Arabic translator while Jane Doe’s father was in the local hospital receiving treatment for a terminal illness. While she was in his patrol car, he forced her to perform oral sex on him while he was in uniform and inserted his finger into her vagina, according to the lawsuit. Jane Doe alleged that Corbin “was arrested five times for various offenses” prior to being hired as a City police officer and was accused of aggravated assault in 2008.

Both Pereira and Corbin pleaded guilty to exploiting their positions as police officers to sexually assault a minor. According to news reports (see, e.g., Press of Atlantic City, December 20, 2016, “Former Brigantine officer sentenced to five years for sexual assault of teen,” by John DeRosier), both were sentenced to five years in prison. According to the NJ Department of Corrections on-line search tool, Corbin was admitted to prison on June 26, 2015 and released on May 24, 2018. Pereira was admitted on December 16, 2016 and was released on October 11, 2019.

Of the $1.1 million, Jane Doe received $611,186.53, her mother received $140,000, the co-Guardian ad litem received $9,880 and Jane Doe’s and her mother’s lawyer received $275,355.51 in fees and $38,577.96 to reimburse him for disbursements made. The remaining $25,000 was placed into trust pending final resolution of any of Jane Doe’s outstanding medical liens. By way of a March 31, 2022 order, Judge Porto ruled that an additional $1,200 be awarded to the co-Guardian ad litem and that Jane Doe’s share, now reduced to $609,986.53, be placed into an irrevocable trust for her.

The case is captioned Jane Doe v. City of Brigantine, et al, Docket No. ATL-L-1833-16 and Jane Does’ and her mother’s attorney was Scott G. Leonard of Morristown. The civil lawsuit and Order Approving Settlement are on-line here.

While Pereira and Corbin both pleaded guilty, the allegations related to the exact nature of their conduct had not been adjudicated by a civil court. Also, the lawsuit’s allegations against Brigantine and Atlantic City officials have not been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of these officials. Jane Doe’s allegations against these officials are just that–allegations. All that is known for sure is that the two cities or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Jane Doe $1.1 million 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.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]