On Friday, December 11, 2015, an Alpha man pled guilty to one count of endangering the welfare of a child following his trial before the Warren County Superior Court. The Alpha man, age 33, was originally charged with two counts of sexual assault, but accepted a plea agreement that involved the dismissal of the two sex crimes charges in exchange for a guilty plea to Endangering the Welfare of a Child, prior to the jury reaching a verdict. The defendant allegedly admitted to engaging in sexual conduct with a 15-year-old girl. The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office states that they intend to argue for 5-years imprisonment, Megan’s Law, and Parole Supervision for Life (PSL) at the defendant’s sentencing.
Why would the defendant accept a plea deal before the jury finished its deliberation? The defendant may have believed that the Warren County Prosecutor had successfully established the elements of the offense, and decided to plea guilty to a lesser offense, lowering his exposure to an extensive prison term. Sexual Assault is a serious sex crime. It is a second-degree offense, exposing the defendant to up to 10 years in a New Jersey State Prison for each count, and up to a $150,000 fine.
In the State of New Jersey, various acts of sexual misconduct constitute`s Sexual Assault under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2. In some instances, an actor, who has sexual contact with a person between the ages of 16 and 18 and is related by blood to the victim, may be found guilty of second-degree sex assault. In another instance, an actor, who uses physical force or coercion while committing an act of sexual penetration, but the victim does not sustain severe personal injury, may be found guilty of the same offense.
Speculating on the case of the Warren County man, the defendant was, in all likelihood, charged with New Jersey Statute 2C:14-2b, which is: “An actor commits an act of sexual contact with a victim who is less than 13 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.” If the defendant felt that the prosecution proved that his conduct satisfied all of the elements of a second-degree sexual assault offense, it may have been advantageous to take the plea deal prior to the jury rendering a verdict.