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“She Needs to Be Buried”: New Jersey Jail Supervisor Accused of Retaliation by Guard Who Rebuffed Him

by Jo Ellen Nott

On August 23, 2022, a guard at New Jersey’s Essex County Jail filed a discrimination lawsuit accusing a high-ranking male supervisor of sexual harassment. The suit claims that Associate Warden Antonio Pires, 48, “manipulated and coerced” the guard, Daniela Argudelo, 32, into a brief sexual affair but then retaliated when she ended the relationship by assigning her to difficult and more dangerous jobs.

Argudelo began working at the jail on Doremus Avenue in Newark in 2021. According to the suit, she was quickly promoted to a management position as Pires showered her with compliments, gifts, and bundles of cash during their relationship. But then when she refused to continue it, he retaliated by assigning her to prisoner areas during her shift, she claims, leaving her previous management duties unattended.

The attention Argudelo allegedly received from Pires included requests for revealing “selfies,” along with late-night texts saying his day would have been better had he stayed later and gotten to see “boobs.” Argudelo also claims the warden recommended seeing a Santeria priest regarding her best friend, whom Pires did not like. In addition, he allegedly offered a marriage proposal and to seal it with a ring that would cost three times his annual salary. He also offered cash gifts totaling $9,000 to buy a used car from a work colleague, the guard says.

The suit claims that even after Argudelo rebuffed his advances, Pires continued to ogle her, repeatedly calling her “beautiful” and “gorgeous.” When she did not respond to his unrelenting attention, Pires allegedly started telling others at the jail that he wanted to fire her and saying ominously: “She needs to be buried.”

On June 20, 2022, Argudelo complained to the Office of the Inspector General in Essex County, but nothing was done. Her attorneys, Matthew Luber and Tyler J. Burrell, put Essex County officials on notice that their Red Bank firm, McOmber McOmber & Luber, intended to sue on Argudelo’s behalf.

The suit was filed in Superior Court for Essex County, seeking monetary damages for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, creating a hostile work environment and retaliation, as well as orders for defendant jail supervisors to take anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation and anti-harassment training. In addition to Pires, the suit also names another supervisor, several John Does and the county government as defendants. See: Agudelo v. Cty. of Essex, N.J. Super. (Essex Cty. Law Div.), Case No. 004983-22.

Argudelo is currently on medical leave for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Additional source: New Jersey Advance Media

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