Lawsuit: N.J. State Police Academy instructor sexually harassed female cadet

New Jersey State Police car in Trenton, N.J. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

New Jersey State Police car in Trenton, N.J. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

A former New Jersey State Police Academy cadet has filed a federal lawsuit against the state, claiming an instructor sexually harassed her for months.

Identified as S.S. in the lawsuit because it involves a possible sex crime, the woman said the male instructor fixated on her, repeatedly pulling her aside and making romantic advances. The harassment was so extreme, the lawsuit said, that fellow cadets began referring to her as the instructor’s wife.

“He isolated her. He pursued her,” said Robert Fuggi, the woman’s attorney. “She was in a tough situation. Here she is, as a young cadet in the academy, really trying to fight for her life and make it.”

A spokesman for the New Jersey State Police said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit claims Trooper Stephen Spitaleri remarked on the cadet’s looks, invited her to dinner, and frequently pulled her aside for one-on-one conversations.

S.S. said she rejected all of Spitaleri’s advances. In response to one of those rejections, Spitaleri apparently said: “You’re all business. But it’s OK because I like that.”

She eventually quit the police academy as a result of the harassment.

Fuggi said he believed fellow cadets and even other state police instructors knew of Spitaleri’s behavior but did not stop it.

“They should’ve stepped in earlier when these say these clear visible signs,” he said. “It wasn’t just one situation.”

The lawsuit is seeking damages and lost wages.

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