- James R. Wronko
Jury Finds Former Guard Not Guilty
Brian Ambroise, a correction officer at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the New Jersey State Prison for women, located in Union Township, New Jersey was charged with aggravated sexual assault and official misconduct for allegedly engaging in non-consensual sexual activity with an inmate.
The female inmate alleged that on several occasions Officer Ambroise kissed her and on one occasion had performed cunnilingus on her while they were located in a supply closet. Pursuant to New Jersey statutes, correction officers are not allowed to have any sexual relations with prisoners, consensual or not.
As part of its investigation, the State obtained Mr. Ambroise’s DNA from cotton swabs provided by the inmate to the Special Investigation Unit of the Department of Corrections. She claimed it was from her vaginal area after he performed cunnilingus on her. The State also coerced Mr. Ambroise into confessing that he had sex with the female inmate.
James Wronko was retained to defend Mr. Ambroise. Kevin Hewitt of this office assisted at trial. After a 2 week trial, Mr. Ambroise was found not guilty of all charges.
The State presented a New Jersey State police chemist to testify that Mr. Ambroise’s DNA was on one set of cotton swabs. The inmate had provided two sets of swabs, one each allegedly from her mouth and vaginal area. As a result of vigorous cross examination, the State could not establish which set of swabs were subjected to DNA testing. The State only tested one set of swabs.
Jerome Scott, the head of Internal Affairs, for the Special Investigation Division (SID), of the New Jersey Department of Corrections also testified. He testified about receiving the swabs and interrogating Mr. Ambroise. The SID officer and the inmate were questioned about the origin of and the transfer of the swabs into the custody of law enforcement. The defense cross examination demonstrated that the origin of the cotton swabs tested could not be clearly established.
Finally, as a result of cross examination, the inmate’s testimony was seriously called into question because of all the contradictory versions of the events alleged to have occurred that she testified to.
In addition, the inmate claimed the alleged sexual activities occurred in a housing unit hallway closet that was not in an area protected by video surveillance cameras. This enabled her to makeup any story she wanted without being confronted with a video.
Brian Ambroise testified on his own behalf and denied having any sexual activity with the inmate. He also related how the SID officers and prosecutors detectives coerced him into making a false confession. Thankfully, the entire interrogation was video recorded and the jury was able to view it in its entirety. Mr. Ambroise was provided with his Miranda Warnings and signed a waiver and agreed to speak to the four members of law enforcement about the allegations. Brian related how the interrogating officers repeatedly talked about his kids and how he would never see them again if he didn’t admit that he engaged in sex with the inmate. After over two hours of questioning and being threatened by four officers, he relented and made an admission.
The jury considered all of the above information and returned a Not Guilty verdict on all charges.