Judge won't toss evidence in N.J. sex case

Posted: February 12, 2010

Investigators were looking for raunchy videos and other material when they executed a search warrant on suspended Moorestown Police Officer Robert Melia's home in April 2008.

Once inside Melia's home on Cottage Avenue, they also seized his computer, which allegedly contained numerous pornographic pictures and videos, including one showing the patrolman performing a sex act with five calves on a Burlington County farm.

Melia and his former girlfriend, Heather Lewis, were later charged with sexually assaulting three underage girls over five years. On Jan. 29, Burlington County Judge John A. Almeidadenied a motion that the former couple filed in December to suppress the evidence found during that initial search.

At the December hearing, Melia's attorney, Mark Catanzaro, said that the computer had not been listed on the search warrant and that all the evidence recovered on it must be suppressed, regardless of its nature.

"There are times when Your Honor's job is very easy," Catanzaro said to Almeida during the hearing. "There are other times when you have to make decisions the public might not like."

In September, Burlington County Judge James J. Morley dismissed animal-cruelty charges that also had been filed against Melia, claiming there was no way a grand jury could have known whether the calves were "tormented" or even "puzzled" by Melia's putting his penis in their mouths. Bestiality is not illegal in New Jersey.

Catanzaro did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office also declined to comment on Almeida's ruling, but in December, Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Morgan said the computer, which allegedly was deleting files when investigators arrived, had been legitimately seized because the search warrant included "anything else of evidential value."

Morgan also said that there was a likelihood that pictures had been stored on Melia's computer and that investigators were trying to corroborate information that the three alleged female victims told them during interviews.

"All three kids identified the fact that Mister Melia's genitals are shaved bald," he said during the hearing.

According to Almeida's ruling, the teens told police that they often performed sexual acts with Melia while Lewis was present.

Lewis told police she would have "sex talks" with the girls at Melia's house. She also admitted that she and Melia had an "active sex life" that included bondage and threesomes.

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