Emanuel Rivera, 38, acknowledged the “imbalance of power” between him and the women he was hitting on, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Acting Sussex County Prosecutor Annmarie Taggart said in a joint statement.
This left them unable to consent, he admitted, because of the “coercive, intimidating nature of such requests” coming from a uniformed police officer," the statement says.
Rivera, who joined the Vernon department a decade ago after six years as a Paterson police officer, made headlines in May 2019 when he shot and killed a 3-year-old pet Labrador retriever who charged at him in the Scenic Lakes community in Vernon.
He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
That same month, an incident brought authorities' attention to other behavior.
Rivera was among a group of officers who responded to a domestic violence call from a woman at her then-boyfriend’s home, investigators said.
SEE: NJ Police Officer Who Shot Loose Dog Accused Of Sex Crime Against Domestic Assault Victim
The woman told them that she intended to spend the night at a friend’s house but then opted to sleep in her car near there when she couldn’t reach that person, they said.
Rivera, who was still on duty, approached her shortly after she parked, made “inappropriate sexual remarks” to the woman and groped her, Platkin said.
He then directed her to follow him before leading the woman to an abandoned church in Vernon, the attorney general said.
Rivera parked behind the church, ordered her out of the car, then forced his hand into her pants and grabbed her again, he said.
The woman resisted, then told several friends what happened as Rivera returned to work, Platkin said. The woman alter filed a lawsuit against him.
LAWSUIT: Sussex County Police Officer Groped, Assaulted Woman After Domestic Violence Call
Detectives from the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office began looking deeper and found two women who’d been “subjected to advances” after Rivera got his phone numbers while working, Platkin said.
Officials who initially suspended Rivera with pay for nearly three months following the first woman’s allegation began withholding his salary.
A grand jury in Trenton returned an indictment charging Rivera with attempted sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and two official misconduct counts following an investigation by Platkin’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and the Sussex County prosecutor’s office.
SEE: Indictment Returned Against Sussex Officer Accused Of Groping Woman, Pursuing Others On Duty
Rivera took a deal from the government, pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit official misconduct before Judge Michael Gaus in state Superior Court in Newton.
He also agreed to forfeit his current public employment and he has been banned from future public employment as part of the agreement with the OPIA and prosecutor’s office.
“The damage done to the trust of these women and the public by this disgraced officer’s actions is an outrage,” Platkin said. “Police officers are expected to be professional and to respect the laws they enforce and the dignity of the people they serve.”
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors said they’ll recommend five years in state prison, though it will likely be less when Gaus sentences Rivera on April 27.
Deputy Attorney General Eric Cohen of the OPIA Corruption Bureau prosecuted the case with First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Click here to follow Daily Voice Adams and receive free news updates.