🚓 A police chief faces eight charges including sexual assault

🚓 Victims include current and former borough employees, officials say

🚓 The Manville chief was suspended last year

MANVILLE — A suspended police chief accused of "abhorrent" sexual abuse that went on for over a decade has been indicted by a grand jury on eight charges, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Manville police Chief Thomas J. Herbst, 55, is now charged with two counts of sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual contact, four counts of official misconduct, and one count of pattern of official misconduct. Herbst, who lives in Bridgewater, has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 17, 2022.

The indictment announced on Tuesday includes a new charge of official misconduct for Herbst. According to the OAG, he wrongfully kept his badge after his suspension and flashed it during a traffic stop earlier this year.

“Herbst allegedly established an unsafe toxic work environment for women where power was abused," Attorney General Platkin said. "His conduct, as alleged, was unacceptable and criminal, and we expect to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law for these alleged abuses of the public’s trust.”

Manville police headquarters (Google Maps)
Manville police headquarters (Google Maps)

👮‍♂️ Accusations of 'abhorrent' sexual abuse

Authorities said on Tuesday that Herbst displayed unwanted sexual behavior toward at least three female victims.

A female employee of the Manville police department claimed that Herbst sexually harassed and sexually assaulted her for 13 years in a lawsuit filed last year. The 32-page civil suit stated she endured a “prolonged pattern and practice of abhorrent sexual harassment.” The woman said she was a single mother and feared losing her job if she resisted.

In one early example of sexual abuse, Herbst called the female employee into his office, masturbated in front of her, then ejaculated onto her hair and clothing, according to the OAG. Officials say similar incidents happened repeatedly and eventually escalated into assaults involving penetration.

Investigators found that Herbst later ordered the female employee to wear skirts to work to make the sexual assaults more convenient for him. He also arranged meetups at a motel and told her that she was disobeying orders when she resisted, according to authorities.

(NJOAG, Townsquare Media)
(NJOAG, Townsquare Media)

From there, Herbst began going to her home uninvited and assaulting her, officials said. She then started closing her blinds and parking her car in her garage so Herbst wouldn't know when she was home.

A second female victim who had previously worked for Herbst had him over at her new home and told investigators that he sexually assaulted her while touring the house, according to the Attorney General.

Investigators also said that Herbst tried to get sexual favors from an officer's wife. The police chief texted the subordinate cop and demanded oral sex from the wife in exchange for a promotion, according to officials.

Herbst was first arrested and charged in April. His defense attorney, James Wronko, denied the accusations at the time.

Wronko also said the police chief has never engaged in any nonconsensual activity "with any woman, period," nor has he ever forced anyone into a sexual act via bribery or threats related to employment.

Includes previous reporting from Dino Flammia.

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