TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey authorities on Wednesday arrested a small-town police chief, charging him with sexually assaulting subordinates over more than a decade, while also announcing misconduct charges against another police chief who recently retired.
Attorney General Matthew Platkin said that Manville Police Chief Thomas Herbst, 55, of Bridgewater, New Jersey, was arrested earlier Wednesday and faces multiple counts of sexual assault, official misconduct and other similar charges.
Herbst’s lawyer, Jim Wronko, said in a phone interview that his client “categorically denies” engaging in nonconsensual sex with any woman. He said Herbst was released from jail after an initial court appearance.
Platkin also said official misconduct, tampering with records and witnesses and other charges were filed in state court against former Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, 49, of Farmingdale. Robert Honecker Jr., Kudrick’s attorney, said in a phone call that his client denies the allegations and that Kudrick had fallen into “political disfavor.” “He intends to vigorously defend against these charges,” he said.
The charges were announced together, though the cases are unrelated, to show police couldn’t get away with abusing the power their positions give them, the attorney general said.
“I have a clear message: The badge doesn’t make you untouchable and your office does not give you a right to act with impunity because at the end of the day we all stand equal before the law,” Platkin said.
The case against Herbst made headlines last year when one of the women who said he sexually assaulted her filed a lawsuit against him. He’s been on paid leave since then. Wronko, his attorney, said he expects the leave to become unpaid as of Wednesday.
According to Platkin’s office, Herbst was sexually inappropriate toward at least three women. And from 2008 to 2021, he regularly groped, exposed himself to and sexually harassed and assaulted a department employee who reported directly to him, according to the attorney general. The attacks happened while on duty and around police headquarters, Platkin said.
Herbst’s attorney James Wronko told PIX11 News in a statement:
“Herbst absolutely denies forcing Victim one – who we are familiar with from her civil lawsuit, which precipitated this entire investigation – into performing any non-consensual sexual acts. Chief Herbst has never forced any woman to engage in any non-consensual sexual activities. He looks forward to his day in court when a jury will get to decide his innocence.”
The case against Kudrick stemmed from a special labor counsel investigation in Howell Township that was launched because news about a suspected romantic relationship between Kudrick and a subordinate had come into the open, according to the attorney general.
Shortly before a police captain who knew about the relationship was set to speak to the special labor counsel, Kudrick threatened to launch an illegitimate internal affairs investigation into the officer, Platkin said.
It was an effort to intimidate the captain from being truthful with the labor counsel, he added. Kudrick also falsely denied having an intimate relationship with the subordinate in violation of the township’s policy against engaging in romantic relationships with subordinates, Platkin said.
Manville is a borough of nearly 11,000 people in Somerset County. Howell Township, Monmouth County, has a population of more than 53,000.