Aug052013

Essex County sex offender entitled to withdraw guilty plea, court holds

An Essex County man who pled guilty to third degree child endangerment charges in 2005 was granted post-conviction relief by a New Jersey appeals court in December. The defendant, Carlton Green, filed for relief after he had completed his 3 year sentence and was civilly committed as a sexually violent predator, claiming that his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him that he faced the possibility of lifetime commitment. The court agreed and held that the initial guilty plea had to be vacated. State v. Green, No. A-1826-11T4 (N.J. Super. Dec. 27, 2012).

 

The record in Green’s case showed that he had acknowledged the risk of being civilly committed during a brief interchange with the judge at his sentence hearing, but his plea counsel did not recollect whether he had actually explained to Green what this meant. Importantly, Green’s signature was also conspicuously absent from the plea form which detailed the possibility of lifetime civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act and Green testified that he believed he was facing just 3 years in jail.

 

In State v. Bellamy, the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed a claim of ineffective counsel in the context of the Sexually Violent Predator Act and held that “when the consequence of a plea may be so severe that a defendant may be confined for the remainder of his or her life, fundamental fairness demands that the trial court inform defendant of that possible consequence.” In such cases, the failure of either the court or defense counsel to sufficiently explain the consequences deprives the defendant of information which is needed to make a knowing and voluntary plea, and the appropriate remedy is to remand the case and allow the defendant to withdraw the plea.

 

The court found that the Bellamy standard was not met in this case, as the record was “completely barren of any written plea forms that mention” civil commitment and the only time that it was mentioned during Green’s hearing was a “stray comment of the judge who oversaw the plea allocution.” The court also emphasized that under Bellamy, Green did not need to show that the result of the case would have been different had he been aware of the consequence of possible lifetime commitment; rather, “no additional showing beyond a lack of knowledge is required, which was clearly provided through Green’s uncontradicted testimony on remand.”

 

If you’ve been charged with a sex offense in New Jersey, the last thing you need is a lawyer who doesn’t know how to defend you or who doesn’t care enough to help you understand your case. The results can be disastrous, as this case demonstrates, with wasted years of incarceration and appeals. The much better route is to consult with an experienced sex crime defense lawyer at the earliest possible date so that you can prevent major errors from occurring and make sure that you’ve chosen the best legal strategy to protect your rights and reduce your penalties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul222013

Essex County doctor found guilty of harassment but acquitted on sexual assault charges

Raymond Russomanno, a Bloomfield doctor charged with inappropriately touching the breasts and buttocks of several of his female patients, was found guilty in December on 12 counts of harassment but was acquitted on 2 counts of attempted sexual assault and 12 counts of criminal sexual contact. Russomanno faces up to 30 days in jail for each count of harassment, or up to 360 days total. He’s also awaiting sentencing for a 2011 conviction for 4 counts of criminal sexual contact and will be sentenced for both convictions simultaneously.

 

Although the doctor in this case was acquitted of attempted sexual assault, it’s possible that such an offense could be found in the doctor-patient context. As set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, an actor would be guilty of the crime if he attempted to commit an act of sexual penetration in circumstances where the victim was detained in a hospital or other institution and the actor had some supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of his legal, professional, or occupational status. Proving that a patient is “detained” and subject to a doctor’s “supervisory” powers is a difficult task, and likely the reason why these charges were dismissed.

 

Criminal sexual contact is a less serious offense and generally covers inappropriate sexual touching, but some aggravating factor usually has to be in play for the offense to apply, such as the use of force or the involvement of children. For adult victims who have already consented to be examined by a doctor, even criminal sexual contact could be a difficult charge to prove, especially if the nature of the medical examination being performed called for some touching of the victim’s body. The charge could still be sustained in this type of case given enough evidence, however. Indeed, the article noted that Russomanno was convicted of criminal sexual contact in an earlier case also involving alleged sexual abuse of his patients.

 

In the end, Russomanno was convicted only for harassment, which isn’t usually considered a sex offense. Harassment, rather, is a petty disorderly persons offense that occurs when a person subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so. As the article noted, harassment is punishable by up to 30 days per count.

Jun242013

Middlesex County woman charged with prostitution following investigation into online erotic spa advertisements

Police arrested a Middlesex County woman for prostitution and authorities shut down the Bergen County acupressure spa where she worked following a recent investigation into advertisements for erotic spa services that were posted on Craigslist. The spa, one of about a half dozen to be investigated by River Edge police over the past five years, had opened just a few weeks before the police noticed the online advertisements and determined that the business wasn’t licensed for massage. “Social media has become an investigative tool,” said River Edge police chief Thomas Cariddi. “When something comes up, it’s a very quick search from there.”

 

Prostitution is defined under New Jersey law as sexual activity with another person in exchange for something of economic value, or the offer or acceptance of an offer to engage in sexual activity in exchange for something of economic value. Engaging in prostitution is generally a disorderly persons offense, which carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail, but for second and subsequent offenses the charge is increased to a fourth degree crime, which  is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

 

Third degree promoting prostitution, which is punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison, is a more serious crime. It includes owning, controlling, managing, supervising or otherwise keeping a house of prostitution or a prostitution business; procuring an inmate for a house of prostitution or procuring a place in a house of prostitution for one who would be an inmate; or encouraging, inducing, or otherwise purposely causing another to become or remain a prostitute. Other types of promoting prostitution, such as soliciting a person to patronize a prostitute or procuring a prostitute for a patron, are classified as fourth degree crimes.

 

For more information about prostitution charges in New Jersey or to schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, contact the law offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun202013

Union County man accused of sexually assaulting incapacitated woman

Cyrus Fakroddin, a Summit resident who’s well known for walking his pet goat around New Jersey and Manhattan, is now facing less flattering publicity after being accused of sexually assaulting a physically helpless young woman. According to Union County prosecutors, Fakroddin allegedly encountered the incapacitated woman after she left a Manhattan nightclub and then transported her to his home in Summit and sexually assaulted her.

N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2 states that an actor is guilty of aggravated sexual assault if “the victim is one whom the actor knew or should have known was physically helpless, mentally incapacitated, or had a mental disease or defect which rendered the victim temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of his conduct, including, but not limited to, being incapable of providing consent.”

Aggravated sexual assault, which would seem to be the appropriate charge in this case, is classified as a first degree crime and carries penalties of 10 to 20 years in prison. Anyone who is convicted of aggravated sexual assault, moreover, must register as a sex offender for life and comply with the state’s sex offender monitoring, supervision, and reporting requirements. Additionally, under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, anyone who is convicted of aggravated sexual assault can be subject to involuntary civil commitment following completion of their criminal sentence if a court finds that they suffer from a mental abnormality of personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for control and treatment.

Few other crimes in New Jersey carry such harsh and far-reaching consequences as first degree aggravated sexual assault, making it incredibly important for defendants to be represented by competent and experienced legal counsel. If you’ve been charged with aggravated sexual assault or any other sex crime in New Jersey and need help figuring out what to do next, you can contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, at 908-337-7353. I will fight aggressively to preserve your right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and with more than 35 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer, I know how to get the best results for my clients. Even if you decide not to retain my services, the initial consultation is free and confidential.

 

Jun172013

A Millstone Man was Charged in a Child Prostitution Scheme after Monmouth County Police Discovered he had Engaged in Relations with a Minor

A Millstone man was arrested by Monmouth County investigators after allegedly taking part in child prostitution. The man faces charges of second-degree sexual assault and third-degree endangering the welfare of a minor in connection with having sex with the 15-year-old boy. The man was accused of having sex with the boy at his Millstone residence. He was arrested at his home by State Police, and released after posting $250,000 full bail. Because of the age of the victim, the accused in this case faces significant criminal penalties.

If convicted, the defendant would likely be forced to register under Megan’s Law as a child sex offender. In New Jersey, Megan’s law sex offender registry requires convicted sex offenders to provide information to local police about what they look like, where they live, type of car they drive and their past crimes so the police can be aware of their presence. Police then distribute this information based on the prescribed offender level of the registrant to appropriate community officials. The higher the level of offender (one through three with three being the highest tier), the more notice will be provided to the community including local school officials and potentially neighbors within a two block radius. Importantly, this information must be distributed by police according to certain procedures so as not to violate the registrant’s rights to privacy. Once on Megan’s List, it is possible to be designated a reduced tier over time through status conferences with county prosecutors. Good behavior over a prolonged period of time as well as compliance with counseling and other programs often help offenders in reducing their Megan’s Law tier designations. After a prolonged period of time, it is even possible to be removed from Megan’s Law completely.
I, Anthony N. Palumbo, a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, understand the workings of the law and can properly defend accused persons in sexual assault offenses as well as those who
have been convicted of solicitation of a prostitute. Visit my website, www.palumho-renaud.com for more information. I have been defending individuals against sexual assault charges, including those involving minors, in New Jersey for almost four decades. As a longstanding member of the legal community, a former prosecutor, and a current public defender, I can give you an honest assessment of the penalties you face and the best possible avenues of relief.

If you would like to discuss your case, freely and confidentially, with an experienced attorney at no obligation, contact me at 908-337-7353 for a free consultation.

May062013

SEX CRIMES – MIDDLESEX – SEXUAL ASSAULT

A Middlesex man was arrested on charges he had a two-year tryst with a 14-year-old township girl. Authorities said the man. a tattoo artist, coerced sexual favors from the girl in exchange for giving her a free tattoo. He has been charged with multiple offenses including three counts of statutory sexual assault and four counts of sexual assault.

Consensual sex with a minor who is too young to give her consent to having sex. The age of sexual consent is in New Jersey is 16. This is a strict liability offense, meaning it is not relevant whether or not an individual knew he was having sex with a minor. The act in itself is enough to result in a conviction. In New Jersey, the crime of statutory rape is charged as either sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault, depending on the age of the victim. Clearly, the younger the victim, the greater the chance of being charged with aggravated sexual assault as it carries an even stiffer sentence.

A conviction for statutory sexual assault could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years. For aggravated sexual assault, the maximum prison sentence is 20 years. Additionally, defendants convicted of either of these crimes must register as sex offenders under Megan’s if the victim was under the age of consent. This law requires you to give your name, whereabouts and a list of your crimes to the local community. Additionally, a conviction of aggravated sexual assault requires registration for life.

I, Anthony N. Palumbo, a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, understand the workings of the law and can properly defend accused persons in sexual assault offenses as well as those who have been convicted. Visit my website, www.palumborenaud.com for more information. I have been defending individuals against sexual assault charges, including those involving minors, in New Jersey for almost four decades. As a longstanding member of the legal community, a former prosecutor, and a current public defender, I can give you an honest assessment  of penalties you face and the best possible avenues of relief. If you would like to discuss your case, freely and confidentially, with an experienced attorney at no obligation, contact me at 1-866-664-8118 for a free consultation.

 

 

Apr122013

New trial ordered in sexual abuse case due to lack of physical evidence and cumulative effect of trial errors

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled in November that a Monmouth County man sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting his daughter was entitled to a new trial. Although no single error standing alone warranted this reversal, the court was satisfied that a new trial was called for based on the lack of substantial physical evidence and the cumulative prejudicial impact of several trial errors. State v. M.M., 2012 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2474, No. A-2747-09T1 (N.J. App. Div. Nov. 8, 2012).

 

The first evidentiary ruling challenged by the defendant involved hearsay statements made by the daughter’s biology teacher and vice principal. Generally speaking, the rule against hearsay prohibits witnesses from testifying about statements made by other people, as such testimony is often unreliable or unverifiable. An important exception, however, is when the hearsay statement is offered to show the effect of the statement on the listener, not as proof that the statement was true. The prosecution invoked this exception to introduce testimony from the vice principal that the defendant’s daughter told him that she did not want to go home, with the prosecution claiming that the statement was not offered to prove whether she wanted to go home or not, but rather to show that the conversation occurred and the effect it had on the vice principal. Similarly, the prosecution argued that the biology teacher’s testimony regarding a conversation she overheard between the daughter and another girl was offered to show its effect on the teacher, namely concern, and not to prove that what the daughter told the other girl was true. Even if these statements qualified for the hearsay exception, the court agreed with the defendant that they were inadmissible because they were not relevant to any material fact in the trial.

 

The court also found that the prosecutor erred by stating during summation that the daughter “was not lying” and by telling the jury that all of the other witnesses believed her. While finding it unlikely that these comments, by themselves, created any significant prejudice against the defendant, the court still emphasized that it was inappropriate for a prosecutor to vouch for witnesses, attempt to bolster their credibility, or express personal beliefs as to the truthfulness of their testimony.

 

The defendant also contended that it was inherently prejudicial to use a screen to shield his daughter from view during her testimony, although the prosecution claimed that using a screen was an appropriate way to balance the defendant’s right to a neutral and public trial against the need to protect his daughter from undergoing psychological and emotional trauma during her testimony. The court accepted that screening might be appropriate in certain cases, but found that it was inappropriate in this case because there was no evidence that the daughter would have been unable to testify in open court, particularly in light of the fact that the screen shielded her only from spectators and not from the defendant or the jury.

 

Considering the effect of these errors together, along with the lack of direct evidence, the court concluded that a new trial was necessary. As the court explained, the combined impact of allowing irrelevant hearsay, inappropriate vouching, and unnecessary screening “was clearly capable of producing an unjust result.”

 

Trial errors like these can be especially damaging in cases involving child sexual abuse and other highly stigmatized crimes, but a skilled criminal defense attorney can raise objections and prevent prosecutors from introducing irrelevant and prejudicial evidence to the jury. If you’ve been accused of a sex crime and want to ensure that you’re represented by an experienced and aggressive defense lawyer, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, at 908-337-7353 to arrange a free and confidential consultation. I have more than 35 years of experience defending clients against sexual abuse charges and I know the best strategies and tactics to protect defendants and get the best results possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar222013

Double jeopardy protected sex offender from additional penalties omitted from his sentence but required by law

ANTHONY N. PALUMBO – SEXUAL ASSAULT LAWYER

A case decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court this fall held that a judgment of conviction for sexual assault could not be amended, after the defendant had served his sentence, to fix an error in the original sentence that had omitted legally-mandated lifetime community supervision requirements. Even though the original sentence was invalid due to the missing provisions, jeopardy attached as soon as that sentence was completed and the constitution prohibited the court from imposing additional penalties. State v. Schubert, 212 N.J. 295 (Oct. 22, 2012).

 

The defendant in Schubert pleaded guilty to second degree sexual assault in 1996 and was discharged from probation after completing his sentence in 2003. In 2007, however, the chairman of the parole board discovered that the original sentence had omitted mandatory lifetime community supervision requirements and at his request, the trial court entered an amended judgment in 2008 which added the missing provisions. The defendant then filed a petition to vacate the amended judgment, contending that the trial court had no jurisdiction to amend the sentence after it had been fully completed and that doing so violated the double jeopardy clause of the FIfth Amendment.

 

Although the double jeopardy clause is best known for protecting individuals from being prosecuting for the same offense after an acquittal, it also protects defendants from receiving multiple punishments for the same offense. The first factor to consider in determining whether an amended judgment amounts to this sort of unlawful multiple punishment is whether the additional sentence provisions are punitive or remedial: if they are remedial, then double jeopardy principles do not apply, but if they are punitive the court must then determine whether they constitute an unlawful additional penalty or merely a correction to an illegal sentence.

 

Applying these rules in Schubert, the court agreed with the defendant that community supervision for life is punitive in nature, not remedial, because an individual who is subject to community supervision for life has severely restricted freedoms. For example, he must receive permission from his parole officer before choosing where to reside and before commencing employment, and he can also be subject to random drug testing, yearly polygraphs, curfews, and restrictions on internet access, among other conditions. Moving to the second part of the double jeopardy inquiry–whether the amended judgment was an illegal additional penalty or an acceptable correction–the court explained that an unauthorized sentence can generally be corrected at any time before the sentence has been completed, but not after the defendant has served his term, as in this case.

 

For more information about New Jersey’s sex crimes laws or to schedule a free legal consultation, contact the law offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353.

 

Mar012013

Online sting operation nabs Monmouth County man for attempted child sex crimes

A Monmouth County man was arrested for attempted child endangerment and attempted luring after engaging in sexually explicit internet chats with a Passaic County sheriff’s officer posing as a 12 year old girl. The man, unaware that his chat partner was a police officer, allegedly asked to meet the girl several times to go camping, to the mall, and horseback riding. On two occasions he also initiated video chats with the officer and exposed his genitals.

 

The offense of endangering the welfare of a child applies when an actor engages in a prohibited sexual act with a child who is less than 16 years old. “Prohibited sexual acts” include not just sexual penetration, but also bestiality, sadism, masochism, oral sex, and the possession, creation, or distribution of child pornography. As a result, the offense encompasses many different types of crimes, ranging from consensual sexual activities between adults and minor children to more egregious cases of child sexual abuse, and the penalties increase along with the severity of those circumstances. To prove charges of attempted child endangerment, as in this case, the state has to prove that the actor took a substantial step in a course of conduct that would have constituted child endangerment if the offense was completed. Attempted child endangerment generally carries the same penalty that would apply had the crime been completed.

 

Luring is a separate crime that occurs when a person attempts to lure or entice a child under the age of 18 into a motor vehicle, structure, or isolated area, or attempts to convince the child to meet or appear at any other place, with a purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child.  Luring is generally a second degree crime and carries a penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison.

 

The use of online “sting operations” to catch child predators has become increasingly common in recent years as sex offenders have learned to use chat rooms, social networking sites, and other online tools to lure minors into sexual situations. These law enforcement operations, however, may be susceptible to challenges of unlawful entrapment if the defendant can prove that the police officer’s conduct would have coerced an otherwise law-abiding individual to commit the crime under similar circumstances.

 

I am Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey sex crimes defense attorney, and I’ve represented clients against charges of luring and solicitation of minors for nearly 40 years. If you’ve been arrested as part of an online sting operation and believe that you were a victim of entrapment, contact me at  908-337-7353 to discuss your case, confidentially and at no cost. It’s possible that you could have other defenses available in your case, such as constitutional claims or evidentiary challenges, and even if you were caught red-handed, you might still be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal and have the charges reduced.

Feb192013

Monmouth County man arrested on burglary and sexual assault charges

Matawan police recently arrested a suspect accused of sexually assaulting one woman and attempting to sexually assault another woman after breaking into their apartments. The Monmouth County man was charged with two counts of burglary and one count each of attempted sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and criminal restraint.

 

Aggravated sexual assault is a first degree crime, punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, and includes cases where the actor commits an act of sexual penetration and the offense is committed during the commission or attempted commission of a robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, or criminal escape. It also constitutes aggravated sexual assault if the actor was armed with a weapon and threatened to use it against the victim or if the offender used physical force or coercion and inflicted severe personal injury on the victim.

 

Source: Matawan man faces burglary, sexual-assault charges, The Asbury Park Press