TOMS RIVER – Her name is Ashley Stanfield. She sat with her attorney, Robert R. Fuggi Jr., in a conference room at his Main Street offices Friday afternoon. Both Stanfield and Fuggi read from prepared statements accusing her former fire academy instructor of rape, sexual assault and torture that she said occurred Sept. 26, 2018.
Until today, she was known simply as A.S. in court documents that accuse John Syers Jr., but also the Ocean County Fire Academy, Ocean County Fire and First Aid Training Center, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, “John Does” and “Corporations,” of various failings.
She is asking for a jury trial and demanding damages to be determined at trial in federal civil court.
Fuggi called his client “brave, truthful and credible” during the press conference. He did warn his client against holding a press conference, or even revealing herself to the public, but she wanted to move forward with it. However, Syers’ attorney, Richard Lomurro, said in a phone call early Friday afternoon the plaintiff carried on an adulterous, ongoing consensual sexual affair with this client.
Lomurro said in an email Friday afternoon that the press conference violates rules of professional conduct, specifically rule 3.6 concerning trial publicity that “prohibit the type of press conference that Mr. Fuggi and the accuser held today.”
Stanfield met Syers while a student at the Ocean County Fire and First Aid Training Center from August 2017 to January 2018 but remained an active student until April 2018. Syers was an instructor. Her federal civil complaint, filed at the end of April, stated Syers made a sexual comments to Stanfield that made her “feel uncomfortable.” She confided in another student but doesn’t say if she reported those comments to training center leaders.
She is a volunteer fire fighter with Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Station 44, where she is listed as Ashley Stanfield Duffy.
The complaint said Syers and Stanfield “had a brief romantic encounter” that April, and spoke on and off through Sept. 26. Syers had a girlfriend at some point between April and September, and stopped contacting Stanfield until that relationship broke off. Stanfield and Syers agreed to meet a week before the alleged attack, although she chose not to show up and ignored Syers’ repeated phone calls and texts.
She agreed to meet him at his home in Lacey Township the morning of Sept. 26, 2018. Stanfield said during the press conference she didn’t feel “safe” to meet Syers before then. The two had breakfast and Syers showed her around his new home.
He showed her the bedroom last, where she said the two shared a “consensual kiss” while sitting on Syers’ bed. The kiss finished. That’s when Stanfield said things happened quickly. She was pinned to the bed, handcuffed, tied with a rope to the bed, and sexually and physically assaulted. She blacked out for a time. She freed and dressed herself in the bathroom, and went home. She sustained multiple injuries from the encounter, part of the evidence filed in the federal civil suit.
She went to Community Medical Center the next day, where a rape kit was performed. Those results are still pending. She met with Lacey Township Police Oct. 3, and had “consensual phone intercept” with Syers, with police recording. That investigation is still ongoing and Fuggi said he has not heard that recording, and won’t until the criminal investigation is completed.
Stanfield said Syers had continued to attempt to contact her via phone and social media, all of which she said she ignored. She did obtain a final restraining order against Syers in February. Lomurro said Syers didn’t testify at the restraining order case because of the pending municipal court case, something that regularly happens in such situations. That hearing has no relationship to the pending case, he added.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office is still investigating.
Lomurro said his client hasn’t been arrested or charged by any authorities regarding Stanfield’s accusations. He said he believes the evidence will support Syers’ innocence.
“We look forward to his side of the story being told where it belongs, in the courtroom,” Lomurro said.