Online #MeToo case against ‘perv’ NJ cop crumbles: All charges dropped
PHILLIPSBURG — Less than a month after being called a "perv" by a woman who accused a cop of exposing his genitals in a Wawa parking lot, the longtime police officer was cleared of all charges on the 18th anniversary of his time with the department.
Phillipsburg police Officer William Lance had been charged with official misconduct and criminal sexual contact by the Warren County Prosecutor's Office after a complaint was made on June 8.
The woman said Lance called her to his patrol car then grabbed her arm and placed her hand on his exposed genitals. She said that when she pulled away, Lance told her not to tell anyone.
She described this encounter on her Facebook page and encouraged others to come forward with their own experiences with Lance.
On Thursday, defense attorney Donald Souders shared a letter from Warren County First Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Robinson clearing his client of the charges, which, if he had been found guilty, would have resulted in mandatory prison time.
Souders also included a complaint and affidavit of extortion charges against Dynajah Greene, 22, of Phillipsburg, in a different case. According to the complaint, Greene threatened to harm a man on Tuesday and "release information to the Phillipsburg police department" if he did not pay her $200.
The man went to police with text messages of the threats and agreed to allow detectives to record his phone calls from Greene.
If the man failed to pay her, Greene said she would "ruin his life" by calling police to report a "sexual incident" between him and a female, according to the complaint.
It is those charges that sank the case against Vance, Warren County Prosecutor James Pfeiffer told New Jersey 101.5.
"The accuser/victim that was charged in an unrelated case with theft by extortion and she threatened physical harm in that criminal complaint. She also threatened to file false charges of criminal sexual assault," Pfeiffer said. "As a result, that severely damages her credibility as far as her testimony against Officer Lance and we have to make evidence based decisions on whether or not to move forward with a case."
"We would not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. That's what it comes down to," Pfeiffer said.
The prosecutor said it was an administrative dismissal without prejudice, meaning the charges could be refiled if there additional independent evidence was found.
Souders said that Lance maintained his innocence and understands that that prosecutor had to pursue allegations of wrongdoing.
"It is in this vein that it remains our hope that those responsible for initiating and, thereafter, propagating these lies will be held accountable," Souders said.
Souders said that Lance hopes to return to the active duty and to continue his work with underprivileged children in Phillipsburg.
"He's had stellar reviews by his superiors and has led the force, as I understand it, any number of years in arrests. He's been a very active police officer. He's also been very, very involved with the youth community. He runs a martial arts program throughout the year," Souders said.
Lance brings some of the participants to a yearly martial art event in Reading, Pennsylvania, at his own expense.
"The real injustice in this matter is the likely impact these false allegations could have upon actual victims and, their reluctance to come forward and speak the truth," Souders said. "Utilizing the criminal justice system as a platform to advance one’s own agenda has the potential to silence the voices of real victims."
"It is my client’s hope that the media broadcasts this statement with the same fervor as it did the underlying charges which have now been dismissed," Souders added.
Previous reporting by Dino Flammia was used in this report.