A second woman has joined a lawsuit accusing former Iredell County Sheriff’s Det. Ben Jenkins of assault and harassment and Sheriff Phil Redmond of negligence.
The lawsuit, originally filed by Suzanne Wick of Kannapolis in March, accuses Jenkins — who worked in the ICSO’s Domestic Violence Unit — of subjecting domestic violence victims Wick and Lisa Mangiardi of Asheville to unwanted sexual advances and stalking. He is also accused of abusing his power as a law enforcement officer.
The lawsuit, which seeks in excess of $10,000 for emotional distress, also accuses Redmond of “negligent retention and supervision” of Jenkins. After an April 2009 complaint filed by Wick, Jenkins was demoted to jailer, but was later promoted again.
Mangiardi says in the lawsuit that she feared for her safety, and did not report Jenkins at the time of the harassment. However, she felt compelled to join the lawsuit after hearing about similar claims made by Wick.
The amended complaint, filed Monday, says Mangiardi sought help from the ICSO on May 29, 2008, after an altercation the previous day where she said her now ex-husband made threats against her and her two children with a knife at their home in Statesville. Soon thereafter, a temporary restraining order was issued against the ex-husband.
Mangiardi, who worked as a criminal court mediator at the Iredell County Courthouse, said Jenkins began talking to her at work, and offered support. In June 2008, when her ex-husband showed up at her home unexpectedly, she contacted Jenkins.
According to the lawsuit, Jenkins asked Mangiardi to meet him at the Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Unit and he would see what he could do to help.
During that meeting, which occurred after 5 p.m.,“Defendant Jenkins escorted Lisa to an office and closed both doors, which left both of them alone. After closing the doors, Jenkins began grinding his hips and telling her,‘don’t you want this,’” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit claims that Jenkins continued to harass Mangiardi until May 2009, stalking her, sexually harassing her at work and home, and “giving Lisa a ‘hug’… in an area outside the courthouse that included slipping his hands down the backside of Lisa’s skirt,” according to the lawsuit.
Wick made similar claims, saying she sought protection from the ICSO from her abusive now ex-husband on Jan. 6, 2009, after her husband assaulted her, threatened her and one of her children with a gun, and trapped her in a closet for hours at their home in Mooresville, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that incident led to months of Jenkins stalking Wick, making sexually explicit comments and gestures and threatening to stop the prosecution of her ex-husband unless she had sex with him. Wick also claims Jenkins entrapped her at the ICSO after-hours, and repeatedly harassed her.
“Suzanne was already hopelessly vulnerable after her near-death experience with her husband. Suzanne needed Jenkins to do his job and protect her,” the lawsuit reads.“Instead, he exploited his position of authority to try to initiate a sexual relationship with Suzanne. When she rebuked him, he committed an atrocious act — he threatened to release the ex-husband who had threatened to kill her only weeks before. That unspeakable threat was akin to a death threat and it terrified Suzanne and her children.”
Wick reported Jenkins’ conduct to the ICSO in April of 2009, and according to the lawsuit, she was interviewed at the ICSO and was later told that her claims had been corroborated and Jenkins had been demoted to jailer. She later learned Redmond had promoted Jenkins to a new position in 2011.
After Wick’s ex-husband pled guilty to charges of assault and abuse against two of their children and received a prison sentence in January 2012, Wick claimed she felt safe to file the civil suit against Jenkins and Redmond, according to the lawsuit.