Recent changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws

A bill recently enacted makes significant changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws. The new provisions clarify the law, update it to apply to a broader range of technologies, and expand the penalties for child sexual abuse and exploitation, bringing it more into line with federal law.

 

Key provisions in the new law include the following:

  • Minors up to the age of 18 are now protected from sexual abuse and exploitation under the child endangerment statute. Previously, the statute only protected minors up to the age of 16.
  • Updated definitions and terminology have been incorporated into the child sexual abuse and child pornography statutes to better address digital technology and to prevent offenders from using new technology to exploit loopholes in the law.
  • The legislation expands the scope of criminal liability for child pornography possession, distribution, and production offenses. Some offenses have been upgraded and subject to harsher penalties, while other offenses are now subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
  • The law also adds a provision to Megan’s Law authorizing special lifetime parole supervision for child pornography offenders, and it makes these offenses ineligible for expungement.

 

For more information about child sexual assault and child pornography offenses in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353 and ask to schedule a free legal consultation. Sex Crime attorney Anthony N. Palumbo serves clients facing all types of criminal charges, primarily in Essex County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Union County. Call today and find out how Mr. Palumbo can help you with your charges.

 

 

 

Middlesex County sex offender not entitled to new trial on Megan’s Law address registration violation

Following his conviction in 2010 for failing to verify his address and failing to register a change of address as required by Megan’s Law, a Middlesex County sex offender was deemed ineligible for a new trial last month. State v. Harcher, No. A-4841-11T4 (Oct. 1, 2013).

 

The defendant was convicted for child endangerment in 1994 and was sentenced to jail time as well as lifetime supervision under Megan’s Law. Upon his release from prison he was advised of the sex offender address registration requirements that applied under Megan’s Law and he provided his mother’s address as his residence. When he subsequently failed to verify this address, however, the police went to the property and discovered that his mother had moved away. He was then charged with failing to verify his address and failing to notify police of a change in address.

 

Before seeking a new trial, the defendant had appealed his conviction on the ground that there was insufficient proof, but the jury and the court disagreed. The defendant then commenced this litigation, claiming that he had ineffective legal counsel. His first argument was that his attorney failed to adequately investigate the existence of an unnamed police officer who allegedly told him that he did not have to register. This claim, the court found, was completely uncorroborated, and his attorney’s failure to find the mystery police officer provided no basis for a new trial. The defendant also contended that his attorney “coerced” him not to testify, but the court concluded that it was more “advice” than “coercion” and that it did not amount to inadequate legal performance.

 

For more information about defending sex offender registration violations in Middlesex County, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, Esq., at 908-337-7353 for a free consultation.

Recent changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws

A bill enacted this summer makes significant changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws. The new provisions clarify the law, update it to apply to a broader range of technologies, and expand the penalties for child sexual abuse and exploitation, bringing it more into line with federal law.

 

Key provisions in the new law include the following:

  • Minors up to the age of 18 are now protected from sexual abuse and exploitation under the child endangerment statute. Previously, the statute only protected minors up to the age of 16.
  • Updated definitions and terminology have been incorporated into the child sexual abuse and child pornography statutes to better address digital technology and to prevent offenders from using new technology to exploit loopholes in the law.
  • The legislation expands the scope of criminal liability for child pornography possession, distribution, and production offenses. Some offenses have been upgraded and subject to harsher penalties, while other offenses are now subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
  • The law also adds a provision to Megan’s Law authorizing special lifetime parole supervision for child pornography offenders, and it makes these offenses ineligible for expungement.

 

For more information about child sexual assault and child pornography offenses in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353 and ask to schedule a free legal consultation. Palumbo & Renaud serves clients facing all types of criminal charges, primarily in Essex County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Union County. Call today and find out how we can help you.

 

 

 

Convictions for prostitution were not a single “crime spree” eligible for expungement, court holds

Criminal convictions can be expunged in New Jersey after a period of 10 years, but only for offenders who have no prior or subsequent convictions. In limited circumstances, an offender may be able to prove that multiple convictions were so closely related to each other that they form a single event for purposes of expungement, but this was not the case in a recent Appellate Division opinion denying expungement for two prosecution offenses. In re Expungement of the Crim. Records of C.A.D. (Jul. 18, 2013).

 

The petitioner in this case owned and operated two massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution. Middlesex County authorities arrested him in 2002 in connection with one of the massage parlors and charged him with various prostitution offenses. Two months later similar charges were filed against him in a separate indictment in Bergen County, where the second massage parlor was located. He eventually pled guilty to one count of fourth degree maintaining a nuisance in each case and after serving his probation he filed an expungement petition for both convictions in Middlesex County. Hoping to avoid the restriction on multiple convictions, he contended that his convictions were part of a common “crime spree” and should be treated as a single event for expungement.

 

The court rejected the petitioner’s “crime spree” argument and denied his request for expungement, concluding that he had been convicted of two separate offenses and failed to prove otherwise. As the court noted, the petitioner’s crimes occurred in different counties and resulted in different criminal indictments; they simply could not be considered truly simultaneous under the totality of the facts.

 

If you’re facing sex crimes charges in Middlesex County and have questions about the possible penalties and legal consequences, or if you have an existing sex crimes conviction that you’d like to get expunged, call the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353.

Gunnison Beach Topless Sunbathing: Illegal for Women at Most New Jersey Beaches

With the exception of Gunnison Beach, all of New Jersey’s public beaches prohibit nudity. More often than not, these nudity restrictions apply to female breasts as well as to more intimate body parts, even though many women prefer to sunbathe topless and many people find the practice non-offensive.

 

Being arrested for topless sunbathing is no day at the beach, but a New Jersey Public Nudity Defense Attorney can help you understand the legal process you’re facing, how to move forward, and the best ways to protect your rights and reputation. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation in your case, call me, Anthony N. Palumbo, Monmouth County Criminal Defense Lawyer, at 908-337-7353.

 

Public Nudity Ordinances vs. Lewdness Charges

New Jersey municipalities have the authority to enact their own public nudity laws banning women from exposing their breasts in public and providing penalties such as fines and community service. While local public ordinances may come into play, however, New Jersey’s lewdness law generally won’t be implicated in cases brought against topless women. That’s because the statute defines “lewd acts” very specifically as “the exposing of the genitals,” without any inclusion of other possibly-erotic body parts such as breasts. The statute also provides that lewd acts must have a primarily sexual motivation, and topless sunbathing, which has various non-sexual motivations (e.g., comfort, prevention of tan lines) will rarely meet this test.

 

No Equal Rights to Sunbathe Topless

Although the New York courts have held that women have a right to appear topless wherever men can do so, People v. Santorelli, 80 N.Y.2d 875 (1992), similar equal protection arguments were rejected by the New Jersey Appellate Division in State v. Feeley, 2011 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2402 (Sep. 14, 2011).

 

The defendant in State v. Feeley was arrested when she removed her bathing suit top while sitting on a public beach in Monmouth County. She was charged with violating the borough’s public nudity ordinance and was taken to police headquarters, where she was processed and given a shirt to wear. She abandoned this shirt shortly after being released, however, and was arrested again after the police received a call about a topless woman walking near the station. (Her shirt was later found hanging from the door of the station building.)

 

At trial, the defendant argued that the public nudity ordinance violated her rights to equal protection because men were allowed to appear topless at the public beach but women were not. The Appellate Division rejected this argument and affirmed the $750 fine in her case, relying on an earlier New Jersey case, State v. Vogt, 341 N.J. Super. 407 (2001). As the court explained in that case, there is no constitutional right in New Jersey for a woman to appear topless on a public beach, and restrictions on the exposure of the female breast, even if based on gender distinctions, are supported by the important governmental interest in safeguarding the public’s moral sensibilities.

 

No First Amendment Right to Sunbathe Topless

The First Amendment freedom of speech is another defense sometimes raised in challenges to public nudity laws. In New Jersey, however, Tri-State Metro Naturists v. Lower, 219 N.J. Super. 103 (1987), established that there’s no freedom of expression inherent in the act of topless sunbathing. “While there may be an element of nonverbal expression inherent in nude sunbathing,” the court explained, “its communicative character is not sufficiently distinct to warrant constitutional protection.” The plaintiffs in this case, nudists who had been arrested for being topless in a state park, had succeeded in overturning their convictions under the state’s lewdness law, but their challenges to the local public nudity ordinance did not fare as well. In addition to throwing out their First Amendment challenge, the court rejected their arguments based on the right to privacy, the freedom of association, vagueness, nudity as a protected liberty, state preemption, and state sovereignty over state lands.

 

Exception for Breastfeeding Mothers

One notable but narrow defense to local public nudity laws is available for breastfeeding mothers. Under state law, these women are entitled to nurse their children in any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. N.J.S.A. 26:4B-4. While this right may not allow nursing mothers to sunbathe topless under the pretext of breastfeeding, it does allow them to expose their breasts to a larger extent than permitted under many local ordinances.

 

A Public Nudity Defense Lawyer Can Help in Your Case

Despite the reluctance of New Jersey courts to recognize equal protection or free speech challenges to public nudity ordinances, a strong legal defense can still undermine the prosecution’s case by challenging the admissibility of evidence or raising procedural errors. And even if you were caught in the flesh (pun intended), your attorney may still be able to get your charges reduced by negotiating a favorable plea deal.

 

For more information or to speak with an experienced New Jersey Public Nudity Defense Lawyer, contact the law firm of Palumbo & Renaud at 1-866-664-8118. Lead defense attorney Anthony N. Palumbo has nearly four decades of experience handling public nudity and indecent exposure cases, and he’s often able to help clients get their charges reduced to minor violations or even get them dismissed altogether. Palumbo & Renaud also treats their clients’ privacy with the highest level of respect and discretion, taking every precaution to ensure that clients’ reputations are protected from potentially embarrassing charges such as public nudity.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.