Monday, November 28, 2011

Montco woman accused of lying about assault, stalking by cop

Authorities Friday accused a Lower Merion woman of lying under oath about being sexually assaulted and stalked by one township police officer and illegally detained by another.

These lies, first made public when the woman appeared at a meeting of the township commissioners, came after the woman learned that the police officer with whom she was having a sexual affair was married and had children, authorities said.

The county grand jury, which spent six months investigating the case, stated in its 19-page report that it believed the motive for the woman’s actions “may be that of a woman scorned” in the wake of a failed relationship.

That “scorned” woman, Gabrielle Drexler, 26, of Bryn Mawr, was arrested Friday on charges of perjury, false swearing, tampering with evidence and making false reports to law enforcement authorities. She was released on $50,000 unsecured bail following her arraignment on the charges.

Assistant District Attorney John N. Gradel, who heads grand jury investigations as well as the office’s public corruption unit, said Drexler could be sentenced up to a maximum of 6½ to 13 years in jail if she is convicted on all charges.

“The grand jury found that nothing happened here. She lied,” said District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Drexler went public with her accusations at a televised meeting of the Lower Merion commissioners on May 18. At that meeting, she claimed that an officer with whom she had had a relationship indecently assaulted her and stalked her after she ended the relationship when she learned he was married and had children.

Drexler at the same meeting also claimed that another officer had illegally detained her after she initially went to township police with her allegations against the officer with whom she had a relationship.

It was because of the police department’s inaction that she felt compelled to bring her complaint to the township commissioners, Drexler said at the meeting.

The township commissioners immediately turned over the matter to the district attorney’s office for investigation.

Contacted by county detectives, Drexler turned over what appeared to be incriminating paper copies of some emails she alleged she received from the officer with whom she had an affair while forwarding others.

A detective, examining the emails, found that one of the paper copies did not match the same email that was electronically forwarded. When detectives asked to examine her computer, she refused and stopped cooperating with the investigation. It was at that time that the investigation was turned over to the grand jury.

It was subsequently discovered that some of the emails allegedly had been doctored by Drexler so that they appeared to incriminate the police officer.

During her sworn testimony before the grand jury, Drexler authenticated the doctored emails as the true copies of the emails she had received from the officer.

The grand jury stated that no evidence supported an allegation of indecent assault, which involved a claim that the officer touched her breast against her wishes. Drexler, in her statements to support that claim, had given different versions of where exactly that incident allegedly had happened.

No one disputes the fact that the officer may have engaged in a relationship with Drexler, whom he first met while he responded to a call at her father’s home, or that he may have communicated with her by phone and emails while on duty.

“It is our job as an instrument of justice to make sure there were no violations of criminal law,” said Ferman. “We are not here to judge an individual’s morality.”

Addressing Drexler’s claim that a second officer illegally detained her in retaliation for her complaints about his fellow officer, the grand jury found that the second officer did nothing but “act professionally.”

The stop occurred when Drexler, who was driving a vehicle of a friend who was in the front passenger seat, pulled into a parking lot behind some closed businesses at 4 a.m. The officer, who said he did not know Drexler, secured the driver’s licenses of both occupants of the vehicle, walked back to his patrol car to verify the identifications and, after finding nothing amiss, drove off.

A video surveillance camera on the patrol car recorded the eight-minute stop although the audio portion of the device was not working properly and contained noting but static.