New Jersey Sexual Assault and Endangering Charges – Easier Alleged than Proved

A New Jersey man was recently found not guilty of Aggravated Sexual Assault and Endangering the Welfare of a Child after a Middlesex County New Jersey Jury deliberated for just 40 minutes, according to a July 5, 2009 Newark Star Ledger article.

According to the article, charges of Sexual Assault an Endangering the Welfare of a Child were filed against the accused after a teenage boy told his grandmother that the accused, his former coach, had sexually assaulted him years earlier. The accused had been interviewed by the police for over 3 hours where he vehemently denied the allegations. The accused, nonetheless, was charged, indicted and tried before a jury.

This type of sexual assault case is often referred to as a “he-said, she- said” case. The only evidence that the State has against the accused in this type of sex case is the uncorroborated sexual assault allegations of a child (“she said”) which the accused (“he said”) denies.

At first glance, this type of sexual assault case would appear easy to defend because of the lack of evidence but the potential consequences for the accused are no different than if the State had DNA evidence, eyewitnesses and a confession. What was the accused in Middlesex facing by going to trial of a first degree Aggravated Sexual Assault? Only 10 to 20 years in New Jersey State prison of which he would have to serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

The consequences are so great that innocent defendant’s are often faced with a real dilemma – consider a plea offer to a lesser jail sentence, probation with mandatory Megan’s law sex offender registration and parole supervision for life, or risk 20 years in State Prison.

I have seen juries struggle for hours with these type of cases. What the State may lack in evidence can be made up for with convincing testimony of a young child who seemingly has no motive to lie. As the Prosecutor on the Middlesex case pointed out, this type of case comes down to credibility.

Cross examination of the alleged victim, exploration of an alleged victim’s potential motives for fabricating sexual assault allegations and presenting credible character witnesses on behalf of the accused can tip the scales in favor of the accused. The nature of the charges, and the age of child witnesses, however, require that the defense attorney walk a fine line between aggressiveness and compassion.

The law firm of Clark and Clark consists of former prosecutors who worked in a sex crimes unit and have extensive experience in handling and trying Sexual Assault cases.

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About the author: Clark & Clark, LLC
Charles F. Clark, Jr. is a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer and the founding partner of Clark & Clark, LLC.