Thursday, June 13, 2013

'Woman scorned’ pleads guilty to perjury in false sexual allegations against police officer

COURTHOUSE — A grand jury summed up its conclusion of a three-year investigation into claims a local woman was sexually harassed by a Lower Merion police officer in May 2011 with the words, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Those words spoke volumes in Montgomery County Court Wednesday when Gabrielle Drexler, 28, of the 100 block of Windermere Avenue, Lansdowne, pleaded guilty to perjury in a case that could have ended a Lower Merion police officer’s career.

Before Common Pleas Judge William R. Carpenter Wednesday, Drexler pleaded guilty to perjury, a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

In May 2011, a Montgomery County grand jury began investigating Drexler’s allegations of indecent assault, stalking and other related offenses by a member of the Lower Merion Police Department.

According to prosecutors, the initial claims were made in a very emotional and very public way – in front of the televised Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners on May 18, 2011.

During that meeting, a tearful Drexler alleged that an officer groped her breasts in August 2010, sent her unwanted e-mails and would often park his patrol cruiser outside her house, stalking her.

The investigation lasted nearly six months, and when a Montgomery County detective first contacted Drexler, she claimed she had proof of her allegations in the form of e-mailed messages sent to her from the officer that she retained.

Yet, two copies Drexler provided to the district attorney’s office contained discrepancies, with the later e-mail containing additional language that the first did not.

“What turned out was, as proof of the officer stalking, Ms. Drexler retained e-mails from him and turned them over to the police,” said Assistant District Attorney John Gradel, lead prosecutor in the case.

“Now, the thing about the e-mails was, she – on her own computer – added sentences, which, if believed, would have resulted in that officer’s arrest. They were basically confessions to what she was alleging.”

According to the grand jury presentment obtained by The Times Herald, in one e-mail, Drexler added the sentence, “I am sorry for groping and trying to kiss you as you backed away in confusion that day at the park…I knew you were my dream girl…”

“The officer’s alleged statements were basically confessions to that sexual assault and would have been used against the officer at his trial,” said Gradel.

“The pair had a consensual relationship for a period of months, and at some point, Drexler learned the officer was married with children and the relationship soured.”

When questioned about the discrepancies in the e-mails on the witness stand, Drexler reportedly lied to the grand jury, claiming that they “just mysteriously appeared.”

In the days after she made the allegations, Drexler filed civil claims against the Lower Merion Police Department and the township in the millions of dollars for violating her rights.

Gradel said the officer lost seniority as a result of the accusations against him.

“He went from the head of the line in promotion to the back of the line,” he said. That officer’s duties have since been restored to patrol.

Sentencing in this matter has been deferred for 90 days to allow time for a pre-sentence investigation to commence.