A New Jersey attorney is accused in a civil suit of physically and emotionally abusing his law firm’s paralegal while the two were living together, and then firing her when she challenged the mistreatment.
Joseph M. DiNicola Jr. of DiNicola & DiNicola in Carneys Point faces counts of assault, terroristic threats, sexual harassment, hostile work environment discrimination and retaliation in the suit filed Sept. 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey by his former paralegal, Kristen Rose.
DiNicola, meanwhile, is denying any wrongdoing.
DiNicola began dating Rose a few months after the firm hired her in 2019, and gradually he asserted control over her by inviting her to move in with him, the suit says. After she moved in with him in the living quarters attached to his law office, DiNicola’s violent tendencies were revealed, according to the complaint.
On one occasion in 2019, DiNicola smashed Rose’s head into a door, causing broken skin and bleeding, the suit said. On another occasion in 2021, DiNicola threw a tray at Rose, leaving her with swelling and purple bruises to the right upper lip, right cheek and forehead, for which she was treated at a hospital, the suit claims. Local police responded to both incidents, but did not bring charges, said Rose’s attorney, Matthew Luber of McOmber McOmber & Luber in Marlton.
The complaint also cites an instance where Rose allegedly used her cellphone to make a video recording of DiNicola’s abuse and harassment. Being recorded did not deter him, according to the suit. He looked directly at the cellphone and said, “You’re in Carneys Point, good luck,” the suit said. Luber said this statement was an attempt to remind Rose of DiNicola’s connections in Salem County, including political affiliations stemming from his government posts, in an effort to deter her from taking any legal action. The video then shows DiNicola striking Rose, and she can be heard shrieking from pain, the suit said.
According to the suit, DiNicola is Salem County’s special labor and litigation counsel for employment matters, and his firm is municipal attorney, planning board attorney and municipal prosecutor in several local towns. DiNicola’s father and law partner, also named Joseph M. DiNicola, and their law firm are also defendants in the suit. The firm’s website says “the DiNicola name has been associated with the practice of law in Salem County and South Jersey since the late 1930s.”
The suit claims the elder DiNicola was well aware of his son’s harassment and violent behavior toward Rose and never tried to stop him.
The younger DiNicola, reached by phone, said he had not seen the complaint. He said he never abused Rose and that she was mentally unstable. He is not yet represented by counsel in the case.
“I’ll address it in the sense that this is a young lady who I had a relationship with for 2 1/2 years and lived with me, so the fact that she’s saying this has anything to do with work, if that’s what she’s saying, blows my mind. I would also say there was never any abuse,” DiNicola said.
“She has attempted over the last several months to ruin my life. She has made all kinds of allegations, all of which turned out to be nonsense in the sense that no charges were ever brought,” DiNicola said.
“I deny anything and everything that woman says about any type of abuse. I deny anything as it relates to any type of harassment,” he said, adding that Rose was hospitalized for issues related to mental illness during their relationship.
Asked for a response, Luber said: “We are not shocked that Mr. DiNicola, Jr. would blame Ms. Rose for the very mental health and emotional distress issues he caused. The fact that Mr. DiNicola attributes the situation to a ‘crazy’ woman fits the profile of a misogynist and abuser.”
DiNicola declined to make his father available for an interview.
Luber, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said the documents and photos in the complaint—including photos of Rose with bruises and cuts that she alleges were inflicted by DiNicola, as well as text messages between them and handwritten letters he sent to her—”speak for themselves.”
“While any type of physical abuse or sexual harassment is reprehensible, the alleged conduct by another member of the bar towards a paralegal is particularly disturbing. We are very proud of Ms. Rose for having the courage to stand up to the abuse, not just for herself, but for all women,” said Luber, who is representing Rose along with Jeffrey Ragone of the same firm.
When Rose sought to end the relationship, DiNicola prevented her from leaving the residence, the suit said. After an incident in May 2021, when DiNicola caused injuries to Rose’s right arm and her upper lip, she said she was ending the relationship and moving out, the suit said. DiNicola immediately said Rose’s job was terminated, according to the complaint.
The next day, when Rose was gathering her belongings, DiNicola became enraged and started throwing things, then pushed Rose out of the office, according to the suit. He then sent her a text message saying, “Please leave the office key on the counter,” the suit said.
Five days after Rose moved to an apartment in Delaware, the suit further alleges, he broke into her new home and knocked her to the ground. The neighbors heard screams and called police, but DiNicola was gone before they arrived, the suit said. The New Castle County Police issued an arrest warrant and restraining order on DiNicola, but he repeatedly violated the order with phone calls, text messages and emails, according to the suit.
The suit said the defendants failed to take measures to protect Rose from the severe and pervasive harassment she experienced, failed to take remedial action, failed to have an effective sexual harassment policy in place and failed to establish a complaint procedure for victims of harassment.