The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and representatives from both the Union City and Weehawken police departments are at odds over an alleged incident early last Sunday morning that was initially reported as being a rape, but may not be a sexual assault crime after all.
On Monday, First Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Terrence Hull reported the incident, stating that a 48-year-old Union City woman was “brutally gang raped” for three hours early Sunday morning in a Weehawken parking lot after allegedly being abducted by a group of men outside a Union City tavern.
According to Hull’s report, the alleged victim told investigators that she was just walking alone near 45th Street and Park Avenue in Union City at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, when a man standing near a van called to her. According to the report, the victim allegedly then turned around, but when she turned her back to the initial man, two other men got out of a green van and surrounded her.
The report also stated that one of the men allegedly pulled a knife on the woman, while the others pulled her into the van. Two other men were allegedly inside the van, meaning that there was an apparent group of five men, according to the report.
The victim allegedly told investigators that she was taken in the van to Harbor Boulevard in Weehawken, to the Lincoln Harbor parking lot, where she was sexually assaulted several times by all the men in the van. She said that she was held for three hours and then escaped, and that her abductors sped off.
Weehawken police officers were called to the scene at approximately 6 a.m., after the supposed victim, screaming and crying and with her clothes torn and tattered, was spotted by witnesses.
The victim was transported to the Jersey City Medical Center, where she was interviewed by investigators from the Sexual Assault Victims’ Unit.
A state-wide all-points bulletin was put out for the vehicle. The alleged victim told investigators that she did not know her attackers and could not give an accurate description of the attackers.
On Tuesday, Hull appeared on News 12 New Jersey, along with other local television news shows, after word of the alleged horrific crime broke. In the interview with News 12, Hull said that he didn’t recall such a case of “gang rape ” ever happening in his 15 years of being a prosecutor.
However, sources said that by the time Hull was making the statement, which caused fear and concern for women in neighboring North Hudson communities, the assistant prosecutor already had evidence from both the Union City and Weehawken police departments stating that the alleged victim was a “career criminal” with a history of similar incidents.
According to reliable sources in both departments, who have requested anonymity, detectives from the Weehawken police department compared notes and supplied the evidence from the alleged incident to Union City detectives, who immediately recognized the alleged victim.
“She’s had arrests for petty theft and prostitution,” said a source from the Union City police department. “And she has many aliases. One of the names she gave is one of the aliases we know.”
Hull said that the woman had made two prior complaints for sexual assault in Union City that were later dropped.
But Hull said that he did not know of the alleged victim’s prior arrests or the prior assault complaints before speaking to the media on Tuesday. “When I spoke to the press, I had no information of her criminal history or prior incidents,” Hull said. “Even then, it doesn’t mean that she couldn’t have been a victim. Because she has been arrested before doesn’t mean that she can’t be raped. But I had questions with the case from the beginning. However, if Union City or Weehawken had information, they are supposed to immediately supply that information to the Prosecutor’s Office. If I would have known [about the arrests and prior incidents] ahead of time, perhaps I would have phrased things differently.”
Sources said that last week, the Sexual Assault Victims’ Unit examined the woman and found no evidence of rape. They said there was no trauma, no cuts and bruises, no evidence of semen. Forensics could not determine whether it was a sexual assault crime, yet the Prosecutor’s Office released the report to the media that it was a “gang rape.”
Authorities said that after the victim was treated and released, investigators have not been able to locate her for further questioning.
“She’s on the lam,” one official said.
The victim allegedly has given Union City police two addresses – one in Union City, which turned out to be fraudulent and another in Manhattan.
However, Hull said that investigators for the Prosecutor’s Office tracked down the woman Wednesday, wanting to ask her further questions.
“There were numerous inconsistencies in the two versions the alleged victim gave to investigators,” Hull said. “We re-interviewed her yesterday [Wednesday] and the facts were not the same. When we confronted her with the differences between the first and second version, she decided that she did not want to pursue the complaint.” With that, Hull said that the Prosecutor’s Office considers the case closed and that they will not seek further information.
Didn’t call the papers
Hull was asked if he thought he could have handled the situation differently. He insisted that he was not the one who informed the press of the incident.
“I didn’t call the newspapers or the television stations with this,” Hull said. “They knew about it and called me. I didn’t give it to them. Someone in Union City or Weehawken released it. I wasn’t going to release anything until it was fully investigated, but I did not know about the prior arrests and incidents.”
Added Hull, “I can understand the uproar of the community, fearing that there may be a pack of men out there abducting and raping women. But there’s no way we can prevent these allegations. I don’t think I did anything wrong. What if I said nothing? Nothing led me to believe that it didn’t happen at first. If I don’t release this and we wait a week, how would the public feel if it happened again? It was a Catch-22 situation. As far as the investigation went, there should have been someone who saw that there was something wrong with the case and let me know.”
Hull said he doesn’t regret the way he handled the case.
“It was a tough call to make,” Hull said. “I could have subjected myself to several women’s groups if we didn’t say anything. At the time, I had nothing to believe it did not happen. I don’t think I did anything wrong. In fact, I think I come out smelling like a rose. People may see things differently.”
Strange things afoot
But the Union City source said police were stunned that no one from the Prosecutor’s Office asked them for help in the case.
“They took the woman’s statements verbatim, word for word and went with that,” the Union City source said. “They didn’t even ask us for anything.”
Weehawken Public Safety Director Jeff Welz declined to comment on the case, deferring everything to the Prosecutor’s Office. Welz did say Thursday that “There appears to be a major break, but you have to ask the Prosecutor’s Office about it.”