An emotional Amy Cresto fought through tears Wednesday as she recounted what happened at the Bethany Beach Police Department's Christmas Party on December 15, 2011 at Smitty McGee's in West Fenwick.
Cresto testified that guests at the party had to move to another room to accommodate the band that was playing at the bar that night. While she was talking with another officer about deer hunting, Cresto says Ralph Mitchell, the Public Safety Director, was sitting across from her and to her left; he then stood up, reached across the table, and put his hand down her shirt and into her cleavage, touching both breasts. They both pulled back, Cresto said, while others reacted in shock. Cresto says she pulled out her hunting pocket knife, opened it, and told Mitchell "Don't you ever (expletive) touch me again!" She told Mitchell that the incident was embarrassing, and said it was the most degrading experience she ever had in her life. While she did receive texts from Mitchell apologizing for what he did, Cresto says she did file a formal complaint against Mitchell with Police Chief Mike Redmon. She says she then called Delaware State Police to file criminal charges against Mitchell, and went to Troop 4 in Georgetown to give a statement, and was also interviewed by a detective at home. She retained attorney John Hall, and on December 29, Hall sent a letter to town officials notifying them that a civil lawsuit for sexual harassment would be filed against them. However, a lawsuit hasn't been filed at this time.
Cresto was hired by the Police Department on July 13, 2011, and started her six-month probationary period as a new employee. Just over a week later, she says Mitchell started making sexually suggestive comments towards her. She tried to use a tape recorder to document the comments, but when that didn't work, she started writing down his comments on a notepad. During cross-examination by defense attorney Joe Hurley, Cresto struggled to recall why she didn't write down certain comments, or why they weren't written chronologically. Cresto answered that she'd write the comments down as she remembered them. Cresto had 15 entries in her journal between July and early December.
Bethany Beach Code Enforcement Officer Barry English testified that in early 2012, he was called into Town Manager Cliff Graviet's office and told that Cresto had said that he'd asked her in passing, "How does it feel to be the most hated person in Bethany Beach" because she'd filed criminal charges against Mitchell. English said one day in January, he walked by Cresto's office, and saw that she had her hands over her face and was crying. English testified that she said "I must be the most hated person in Bethany Beach." English says he responded by saying "I don't think so. I still like you." He says she then told him, in the presence of Building Inspector Nicole Frederick, that she didn't say what she was alleged to have said.
Graviet testified that Cresto had been placed on probation for one year because it was determined that she wasn't always truthful about certain things. He said he wasn't sure if that probation coincided with her six-month probation from being hired or not.
The trial will resume at 10 o'clock Thursday morning.
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