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Robert Melia, Moorestown Cop, Guilty of Sex Crimes

Robert Melia and co-defendant Heather Lewis could spend the rest of their lives in jail after a jury convicted them of sexually assaulting teenagers in their Moorestown home.

A suspended officer and his ex-girlfriend are back in custody after a jury convicted them on a slate of sexual assault charges Friday against teenage victims.

Robert Melia's and Heather Lewis’ bail was immediately revoked and the two were led away in handcuffs as Lewis quietly cried and Melia’s family blew him kisses from the gallery.

After more than two days of deliberations, the jury announced Friday afternoon that it couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict on 19 charges, all involving one of the accusers, and an additional charge against Melia.

But with nearly 50 counts to consider, the jury still handed down guilty verdicts on some of the most serious charges against the pair, who previously lived together on Cottage Avenue in Moorestown before separating.

Robert Melia, 42, was convicted on 22 charges, including sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct, since the crimes occurred during his tenure as a patrolman in Moorestown. Heather Lewis, 36, was found guilty on 25 counts involving sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and invasion of privacy. The jury acquitted her of one count of sexual assault.

As the verdicts mounted, Melia shook his head a bit more forcefully with each “guilty” declaration. Lewis hung her head, still and silent except for one audible sniff.

The often-explicit three-week trial laid bare the sex lives of Melia and Lewis, including their interest in bondage and tens of thousands of pornographic videos in their home. Witnesses graphically described sex acts and Melia’s genitalia during the proceedings.

Three teenage girls accused Melia and Lewis of sexually assaulting them in various ways. , with Lewis performing various sex acts on the girl and the girl instructed to perform sex acts on Lewis.

The defense argued the video was made consensually, but the jury evidently believed the prosecution’s argument that the girl, almost completely nonresponsive with her mouth pursed shut, was drugged or incapacitated in some way. While Melia is not seen on-camera, the prosecution successfully argued that he was taping the scene. A male-looking arm and deep cough are heard at one point. The defense denied Melia was behind the camera, saying a “butch woman” filmed it.

An additional teen boy also accused Lewis alone of assaulting him, charges which she was convicted for.

The jury remained hung on charges involving one accuser in particular. The teen girl differed in her statements to police and trial testimony on various details, including the age she was when the alleged assaults occurred and how many times she was assaulted.

to hide the fact that the stepfather had impregnated the teenager. The stepfather, the defense argued, compelled the girl to make the accusations and to convince the others to accuse the pair as well.

Melia's and Lewis’ case drew national attention not only because of his position as a Moorestown police officer, but because the original indictment included animal cruelty charges against Melia for allegedly performing sex acts on calves. Those charges were previously dismissed.

Judge Charles Delehey wasted no time in revoking Melia's and Lewis’ bail. As they were handcuffed, Lewis made a tearful plea because she had not arranged custody for her 2-year-old daughter.

Delehey immediately shot down any delay.

“In all fairness, this judge believes no one could look at that video and not know what the verdict would be,” the judge said.

Both defense attorneys stopped briefly to talk with Melia's and Lewis’ family, but declined to comment.

Melia and Lewis will be sentenced on Sept. 13. Joel Bewley, spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, said the prosecution will seek sentences in excess of 50 years for each of them. 

Bewley said the Prosecutor's Office will decide later whether to retry Melia and Lewis on the hung charges.

In a statement Friday, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi said, "To the victims, I extend my admiration for their courage in testifying against the defendants. And to the defendants, they will now face the full weight of the sentencing court and the state looks forward to that day.”

Melia was convicted of:

  • Six counts of sexual assault
  • Six counts of aggravated sexual assault
  • Two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact
  • Four counts of criminal sexual contact
  • Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Official misconduct

Melia was suspended, without pay, from the Moorestown Police Department after his arrest in 2008. Police spokesman Sgt. Lee Lieber said disciplinary action against Melia could not occur until after the trial was completed. A call to Police Director Harry Johnson was not immediately returned. 

 Lewis was convicted of:

  • Seven counts of sexual assault
  • Six counts of aggravated sexual assault
  • Two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact
  • Five counts of criminal sexual contact
  • Four counts of endangering the welfare of a child
  • Invasion of privacy

She was acquitted of one sexual assault charge.

The jury did not return verdicts on eight counts of sexual assault, three counts of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact and four counts of criminal sexual contact, all filed against both defendants, plus an endangering the welfare of a child filed against Melia.

Fred Connolly June 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM
As a retired Moorestown Police Officer, I am glad to see that Robert Melia and his "girlfriend" have to pay for thier crimes! My heart goes out to the victims of these two "people". I retired from the Moorestown Police Department in 1999, and never knew, or met Melia, having moved out of New Jersey soon after retirement. He came onto the department a year after my leaving. He is a disgrace to the badge in the worst possible way! His actions in no way reflect on the honorable, dedicated and hard working police officers of MY police department. I still carry a retired police identification, and will always be proud to say that I am a former Moorestown Police Officer! Sgt. Fred W. Connolly Jr (Ret.)

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