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Lesbian Gets $2.8 Million For Harassment At N.J. Sheriff's Office

Nov 16, 2004 | AP A jury has awarded $2.8 million to a former Essex County sheriff's officer who said she suffered sexual harassment from other officers because she is a lesbian.

The Union County jury returned the verdict Monday for Karen Caggiano following a three-week trial.

Caggiano, 43, of Bridgewater, testified that she had to use the same bathroom and locker room as male officers in the late 1990s, and that pictures of naked women were posted on lockers.

She endured lewdness, including one sheriff's officer who repeatedly exposed himself in front of her, according to her lawyers.

One of them, Neil Mullin, said the department issued a "whitewashed" internal affairs report that found no merit to her complaints. Caggiano's superiors acted maliciously and intended to hurt her, Mullin told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Tuesday newspapers.

Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura had no immediate comment Tuesday on whether the department would appeal, a spokesman said.

Rosemary Alito, who represented Essex County at the trial, maintained that the department had a thorough response to Caggiano's complaints.

The trial was held in Union County instead of Essex County to avoid conflicts of interest.

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