FREEHOLD – A former Sea Bright Police Officer has admitted to committing a series of crimes against an ex-girlfriend late last year into early this year, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Wednesday.
Appearing before Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley late last week, 47-year-old Erich A. Bennett pleaded guilty to third-degree Computer Theft, third-degree Criminal Mischief, fourth-degree Hindering Apprehension, and fourth-degree Stalking.
During his plea hearing, Bennett acknowledged that between October 2022 and January 2023, he engaged in a course of conduct that would put the victim in fear, to include at one point disabling security cameras on the exterior of her home and causing damage to her property by slashing her tires and keying her car. He further admitted to driving by her residence and threatening her with physical harm, both in person and via a fake social media account. Additionally, Bennett stated that while he was on duty with the Sea Bright Police Department, he conducted unauthorized lookups of the victim and four of her associates in law enforcement databases, absent any legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Bennett was arrested without incident in late January 2023. He currently remains incarcerated at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending future court proceedings. As a result of the plea, Bennett permanently forfeited the right to hold any public office in the State of New Jersey.
Sentencing in the case has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, November 3, at which time the State intends to recommend a sentence of five years in state prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Bennett would also have to submit to surrender of his privately owned firearms, a permanent restraining order barring him from contact with the victim, and restitution in the amount of nearly $4,800.
This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the MCPO Professional Responsibility Unit. Bennett is being represented by Mitchell J. Ansell, Esq., with an office in Ocean Township.