CO cleared of charges in connection with women's prison assault scandal

A jury found Brian Y. Ambroise not guilty of charges including official misconduct and conspiracy to commit sexual assault


By Rebecca Everett
NJ Advance Media Group

HUNTERDON COUNTY, N.J. — A corrections officer accused of several crimes in connection with a sexual assault scandal at New Jersey’s only women’s prison was acquitted of the last round of charges against him.

A jury found Brian Y. Ambroise, 36, of Union, not guilty of charges including official misconduct and conspiracy to commit sexual assault after a Superior Court trial in Hunterdon County Friday.

“He’s ecstatic. He’s relieved. He almost couldn’t stand up when the jury returned the not guilty verdict,” his attorney, James Wronko, said.

The charges stemmed from accusations that Ambroise had allowed two inmates at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility into a certain area of the prison where another officer, Ronald Coleman, is accused of sexually assaulting them. Under state law, any sexual contact between inmates and staff is a crime because prisoners cannot legally consent.

Wronko said both the inmates and Ambroise testified in the trial.

This acquittal Friday is the second for Ambroise, who was also accused of sexually assaulting inmates himself. In one case, Wronko said, the charges were dropped. The second case in which he was accused of assault ended in a not guilty verdict in November of 2018.

Ambroise is the only one of the six corrections officers and one employee charged with crimes in the prison abuse scandal who has been acquitted. The rash of charges followed a 2017 NJ Advance Media investigation that uncovered a pattern of sexual exploitation and assault in the prison. Investigations from countystate, and federal law enforcement officials followed.

Only Coleman, 40, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has yet to be tried. His trial on charges he sexually assaulted two women on separate occasions in 2015 and 2016 is scheduled for May, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Of the remaining employees, Thomas SeguineAhnwar Dixon, Joel Herscap and Joel Mercado took pleas deals, and Jason Mays was convicted at trial.

Wronko said his client is looking forward to getting back to work as a corrections officer after being on unpaid leave for nearly three and a half years. Wronko said it’s possible his client will have to sue to recoup the earnings he missed out on.

“That’s a lot of lost wages,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said Ambroise will have to go through an internal review process before he can have his job back.

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©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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