Sex abuse victims of former NJ sheriff still seek justice 1 year after Team 12 investigation
One year after a Team 12 investigation exposed allegations of widespread sexual abuse by a former Warren County sheriff, the victims are still seeking justice. And new documents obtained by Kane In Your Corner show county officials are still engaging in courtroom tactics that child abuse prevention advocates call “unacceptable.”
As Warren County commissioners met Wednesday evening, protestors stood with signs, silently demanding justice for the survivors of former Warren County Sheriff Edward Bullock. Bullock is accused of repeatedly raping young boys at the county’s youth shelter.
“We deserve our dignity,” says one of those survivors, identified in court documents only as W.M. “I mean, the fact that they refuse to acknowledge and accept or apologize means they've condoned it.”
W.M and two other survivors are suing Warren County, saying county officials failed to protect them from Bullock and then covered up the abuse. In an exclusive investigation last year, Kane In Your Corner obtained years of sealed court records which showed county officials were repeatedly warned about Bullock’s behavior and took no action. One sheriff’s officer even said Bullock’s behavior was “a running joke. People would see (him) walking down the hall with boy and snicker and laugh about it.”
And in the past year, Warren County has continued to engage in courtroom strategies that deeply troubled some advocates. The county has repeatedly hired experts to testify that because the victims came from troubled homes, being raped would not have caused them any more harm. It’s a theory Marci Hamilton, executive director of Child USA calls “both scientifically incorrect and also just cruel.”
And court records newly obtained by Kane in Your Corner indicate even one of the county’s own experts agrees. Dr. Steven Simring examined one of the survivors on behalf of the county.
In a sworn deposition, Simring said the county attorney told him “Look, this is a damaged person, but we didn't do it. He was damaged to begin with.”
Simring says he did not agree that the victim “would have ended up the same way,” and that being raped by Bullock “made a very great difference.” But he testified that when he delivered his findings to the county attorney, “he asked me politely to withdraw from the case.”
“For a human being to say something like that, that, these kids come from problem families so they’re already damaged, they're throwaway kids, if they've been raped and assaulted and abused, it's not really gonna affect them, it’s unconscionable,” says W.M.
Warren County officials have consistently insisted they cannot talk about the case because it’s in court. But victims like W.M. are upset that to this day, no one from the county has acknowledged the abuse they suffered.
“Warren County has never condemned the actions publicly, no administration, no elected official,” W.M. says. Instead, he says, “they did whatever they could to keep this from coming to light.”
Senior investigative reporter Walt Kane asked county commissioners about that Wednesday night.
“My question tonight is: are you tonight finally willing to publicly acknowledge and condemn the abuse that these victims suffered?” Kane asked.
“We can’t make any comment on this, Mr. Kane,” Warren County attorney Joseph Bell replied, adding “the allegations are in the Superior Court where they are properly venued.”
Bells response prompted a member of the audience to yell “You can’t condemn child sex abuse?”
Freeholder Director Jason Sarnoski banged the gavel. “Sir, I’m not going to allow any outbursts from the public,” he said.