NJ woman sues after claiming dirty cop groped her vagina during traffic stop
ORANGE — An Essex County woman is suing this township and its police department after she was molested by a cop during a traffic stop last year and then was arrested and threatened in the police station when she tried to report the attack.
The woman's assailant, former police officer Ricardo Arias-Vasquez, 35, also is being sued.
Arias-Vasquez eventually was arrested on charges of aggravated sexual contact and witness tampering. Earlier this year, he copped a plea to the witness tampering charge and received two years of probation with no jail time.
The woman's lawsuit, filed last month in federal district court of New Jersey, details her attack as well as what it describes as the police department's culture of corruption.
The lawsuit claims that if not for an app on her smartphone that recorded her calls, officials may have never prosecuted Arias-Vasquez — and she might have been the one going to prison.
The woman's identity is not disclosed in the complaint, identifying her only by initials.
The woman was pulled over on Nov. 18, 2015, allegedly for having a burned out tail light. The lawsuit says Arias-Vasquez told her he would not give her a ticket, but then reached through her car window and began fondling her breasts.
Arias-Vasquez then told her to follow him home, which was nearby. The lawsuit says his “perversion continued as he began touching [her] in the area of her vagina before once again touching her breasts.”
"Fearing for her safety and well-being, Plaintiff pleaded with Arias-Vazquez to let her go,” her civil complaint says. “Arias-Vazquez finally relented and told Plaintiff he would see her around town and returned to his marked police cruiser.”
When she tried to report the incident, an officer at the police station arrested her “for lying about one of his brother officers.”
The lawsuit says that before the traffic stop, Arias-Vasquez had been drinking while on duty at El Rodeo Bar & Grill, which is also named as a defendant in her suit. The woman says there was “illicit and illegal activity being conducted” at the bar and cops were either participating in or covering up for it. The lawsuit does not explain what kind of illegal activity was happening.
While she was in custody, she says she received several phone calls from someone claiming to speak for the owner of the bar, who "wanted to remind her that she has children and that anything could happen if she talks too much about the illicit activity taking place within the Rodeo Bar and the Orange Police Departments’ protection of same," the lawsuit says.
The woman allegedly recorded these conversation on her smartphone and turned them over to investigators.
Arias-Vazquez was arrested a month later.
The woman's eight-count complaint alleges excessive force, illegal search and seizure, assault and battery, and civil conspiracy. She says she suffered "severe emotional anguish" and had to “uproot and relocate” her family several times as a result of threats against her and her children.
Township officials and the bar could not be reached for comment Saturday evening.
The woman is represented by Joel Silberman of Jersey City and Aymen Aboushi of Manhattan.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also on New Jersey 101.5: