Phil Murphy’s inaction against sexual assault of females keeps looking worse

A day after Governor Phil Murphy was implicated in covering up abuse accusations against a coach once employed at the professional women’s soccer club he owns, a Hunterdon County Grand Jury indicted a former Senior Corrections Officer at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in connection with the sexual assault of a female inmate at the facility.

The grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Tyrell Harris-McLaughlin, 29, of Jersey City, on September 29, 2022.

For reasons that are not clear, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and Hunterdon County Prosecutor Renée M. Robeson announced the indictment on Friday, October 7, 2022.

Critics suggest that by releasing the bad news on a Friday afternoon, it would pass without notice by most media outlets and the general public would fail to pay attention to news published during the weekend.

Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

Harris-McLaughlin was indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree official misconduct, and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.

Harris-McLaughlin was charged in October 2021 in connection with the sexual assault of a female inmate over whom he had supervisory and disciplinary power by virtue of his position as a correctional officer at the prison in Union Township, Hunterdon County.

The charges stemmed from a joint investigation by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), and the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.

“The allegations in this indictment are among the most egregious possible abuses of the badge, and the credibility and public trust that come with it,” said Thomas Eicher, executive director of OPIA. “Abuses allegedly committed against someone vulnerable, someone in this officer’s care, and someone who would’ve encountered many challenges and risks when she came forward.”

“The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to providing the highest standards of public service through effective investigations and prosecutions aimed at ensuring justice for all,” said Hunterdon County Prosecutor Renée M. Robeson.

“When those entrusted to serve the public are alleged to have violated their oath, we will thoroughly and objectively carry out our commitment to seek justice,” said Robeson. “Our office will continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement partners in our ongoing mission to create a safe environment for everyone in Hunterdon County.”

In April 2020, the United States Department of Justice released a report which cited the “open secret” of sexual misconduct in the prison for decades.

In mid-2020, press reports indicated that some inmates were forced to trade sex for toilet paper.

In 2021, 31 correctional staff members were suspended.

As a result of the numerous incidents and allegations, Murphy announced that the prison would be closed.

In April 2022, it was revealed that a transgender inmate had impregnated two female inmates at the prison after they had consensual sex.

A state grand jury on September 27, 2022, indicted 14 Edna Mahan corrections officers for a January 2021 incident, in which inmates were forcibly removed from cells and some were beaten, leaving two of the victims severely injured.

One inmate was punched almost 30 times by an officer while five others restrained the victim, despite no apparent provocation or physical resistance from her. She was taken to a hospital where doctors found she had a concussion.

Another victim, who complied with orders to be handcuffed, was transported to Hunterdon Medical Center, where doctors discovered her skull was broken around her eye.

Murphy said he was “disgusted” by the allegations of systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct in America’s top professional women’s soccer league but he declined to accept responsibility for the alleged behavior of a coach who once worked for his team.

Since 2006, the Governor and his wife, Tammy Murphy, have owned NJ/NY Gotham FC, a team in the league formerly known as Sky Blue FC.

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