NYPD Officer Raped by Commanding Officer for Over a Year
A retired New York City police officer accused her former commanding officer of serially raping her for more than a year while they worked together on the Yankee Stadium beat, according to a lawsuit filed in Bronx Supreme Court on Monday.
In the lawsuit viewed by Insider, Gillian Roberts, who identifies as African-American, said she hoped to stay on the Yankee Stadium detail until her retirement, but decided to leave the department early last month when she could no longer handle the stress of becoming an “unwilling sex slave” to her “perverted” captain, Jeffrey Brienza.
When reached for comment about Roberts’ lawsuit on Wednesday, an NYPD spokesman said the “incident is under internal review.” Insider also called several numbers associated with Brienza on Wednesday, but didn’t get an answer.
Roberts’ attorney, Fred Lichtmacher, told Insider in an interview on Thursday that he expects more women to come forward soon. He added that a “sexist” culture exists at the NYPD, which left his client with no choice but to leave the department.
“The NYPD has a policy, not stated but very much in effect, where they protect their royalty,” Lichtmacher said. “They circle their wagons where there is a complaint about a supervisor. You’re knocked down if you come out and say something about a supervisor. Gillian knew this and knew she had to leave.”
According to the lawsuit, Roberts joined the NYPD in 1998, and in March 2020, secured a transfer to the Yankee Stadium Detail, which is considered an “elite” position within the department.
Soon after joining the detail, she said her commanding officer, Brienza, started giving her preferential treatment — making comments to gain her trust and isolating her from the rest of the unit by making her his personal driver.
Cornered in the bathroom
A few months into the new job, in June 2020, Roberts said she was using the bathroom at the end of her shift when Brienza followed her into the room and grabbed her from behind “very forcefully and tightly.”
“Ms. Roberts yelled, ‘No!’ and tried peeling her attacker’s hands off of her, to which Captain Brienza responded by saying, ‘Yes’ as he forcefully turned her around,” the lawsuit states. “Captain Brienza placed his hands around Ms. Roberts’ neck and forced her head down towards his waistline, where his penis was already out of his pants and erect, and forced Ms. Roberts to perform oral sex without protection.”
Brienza then placed Roberts “against the counter and raped her vaginally with no protection,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states Brienza began regularly calling Roberts into his office where he would “shove her head down, forcing her to perform unprotected oral sex.”
“This occurred nearly every game day for a year, and most non-game days when they were on duty at the same time when he would arrange for them to be alone,” the lawsuit says.
She says he would also frequently make her drive him a certain route home, and pull over along the way to make her perform oral sex on him.
Threats against her career
If Roberts tried to avoid Brienza, she said he would assign her to undesirable posts and make comments about how she “stood him up.”
According to the lawsuit, Roberts “felt as though her career and well being were on the line if she did not comply with the Captain’s repeated assaults of her.”
“Because of his high rank, Captain Brienza worked frequently on internal instances of complaints, and went out of his way to remind Ms. Roberts that he ‘knows how these things end,'” the lawsuit states.
“On more than one occasion, Captain Brienza threatened Ms Roberts’ job by telling her that is she were to say anything about what he was doing to her, ‘she would be the one to get in trouble,'” the lawsuit alleges.
Roberts said she finally had enough after Brienza raped her in the women’s locker room after a Yankees game in September 2021. After that incident, Roberts “felt like she could no longer endure what was happening to her” and “feared that if she did not reach out to someone for help, her life could be on the line.” So she reported the alleged sexual misconduct to an inspector in the Internal Affairs Bureau.
While Roberts had originally hoped to stay with the department, and on the stadium unit, until at least 2023, which would have marked 25 years with the NYPD, she “felt that she had no choice other than to retire from the NYPD” early, on November 30.
Roberts’ lawyer writes in the lawsuit that before working on the Stadium detail, putting on her NYPD uniform was the “best moment” of Roberts’ day, because she “was proud that as an officer she was able to help a lot of people.”
“That role, those feelings, and the love of her job were all taken away from her due to what the Captain did,” the lawsuit says.
Roberts asks for $35 million in compensatory damages in the lawsuit.
Roberts’ attorney told Insider on Thursday that he has two goals with the lawsuit: help make his client well again and make sure Brienza is never “able to do this anymore.” He also hopes it will create change within the NYPD.
“The NYPD has got to get into the 20th century. It’s still a sexist organization, a racist organization. It’s not a coincidence that this is an African-American that this happened to, at the hands of a white supervisor,” Lichtmacher said. “Who could feel less powerful than a Black woman being raped by her white supervisor in the NYPD?”