Prosecutors showed lurid video to a Superior Court jury Wednesday to illustrate a Moorestown couple’s alleged role in the sexual abuse of four young people.
Jurors watched clips of Heather Lewis, one of the defendants in the case, using various sex toys on a young girl bound on a bed while another person films it. Prosecutor Kevin Morgan argued the person behind the camera is suspended officer Robert Melia.
Melia, Lewis’s ex-boyfriend, sat stoically through most of Morgan’s closing argument, occasionally shaking his head. Lewis sat nearby at the same table.
Jurors began deliberating the case Wednesday afternoon. Lewis and Melia are accused of sexually abusing three girls who were pre-teens and teens at the time of the alleged assaults. Lewis is also charged with molesting a 14-year-old boy—a virgin at the time—during the same period.
The indictment against Melia and Lewis contains roughly 50 counts, including multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
The defense has argued the sexual activity in the video—which prosecutors claim was filmed in Melia’s Cottage Avenue home—is consensual. But Morgan attempted to refute that claim Wednesday, playing a series of 20 clips, ranging from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, in which the bound girl barely reacts to Lewis’s attempts at stimulation.
The girl’s lack of response “would tell a reasonable person this is not two consensual adults engaging in a sexual act,” Morgan told the jury. “This was not some fantasy. This was not role-playing. This was outright depravity.”
The defense said the person filming the video was not Melia. Lewis testified earlier in the trial the individual behind the camera was a “large butch woman,” said Morgan, who tried to shoot holes in Lewis’s testimony by playing a series of clips he said proves the person filming was a man: a muscular forearm moving blankets, a deep-throated “mm-hm,” a loud cough.
Morgan inferred the “man” in the video is Melia, as also evidenced by the fact that the recording was found on Melia’s computer—despite someone’s attempt to delete it—nor is it surprising Melia would avoid appearing on film, the prosecutor argued.
“Doesn’t it make sense, in his role as a police officer, to know, ‘I can’t have anything to do with this tape,’” Morgan said.
Melia was suspended from the Moorestown Police Department in 2008 after he was charged. He had been with the department as a patrolman for several years.
Sgt. Lee Lieber said Melia is still under suspension because the township cannot take disciplinary action until after the trial is concluded.
During his closing argument, Morgan showed a photograph, taken by police, of Melia’s officer’s uniform hanging up in his bedroom—where prosecutors claim the alleged abuse occurred—and alluded to the psychological effect that would have had on Melia’s accusers.
“When you open the door, by God, you walk smack-dab into a police uniform. Intimidating, you think?” said Morgan. “That was a not-so-subtle reminder that (the accuser) was alone in this world … These were three girls who were isolated based on the status of their family life.”
initiated by the stepfather of one of the accusers to hide that he was having a sexual relationship with and had impregnated his teenage stepdaughter. Morgan dismissed the conspiracy claim Wednesday as “laughable.”
If convicted, Melia and Lewis could face decades in prison.
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