Sexual Assault Convictions in New Jersey Carry Severe Penalties
People charged with sexual crimes have a right to a defense. The criminal justice system requires that defendants have the right to an attorney, to a trial and to be presumed innocent. A recent prep school case indicates how serious sexual assault charges can be and the need for experienced criminal defense lawyers to advocate for the rights of defendants. This includes the right to have charges dismissed if they do comport with the law or with the facts.
The St. Paul’s School Sex Case
On August 28, 2015, a teenage student at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire was convicted of three misdemeanor sex-related charges with a 15-year old girl. The misdemeanors applied because the girl was under the age of legal consent. The 18-year old senior was also found guilty of a felony because he used a computer to entice the teen to meet with him in May of 2014 in an isolated location. He was found not guilty of the most serious felony sexual assault charges.
St. Paul’s is an exclusive boarding school. The crux of the case was whether the 15-year old consented to have sex with the senior who was 18 years-old at the time of the incidents. The jury, nine men and three women, dismissed the most serious aggravated sexual assault charges. The case drew national attention because the backdrop of the charges was a cultural part of the school’s tradition. The students secretly had a senior ritual called a “senior salute” wherein older students were encouraged to proposition younger classmates.
The two main witnesses for the issue of consent were the teenage defendant and the teenage girl. Their stories conflicted. The girl claimed that the defendant raped her. The defendant claimed it was just a giggly encounter – that both were having a good time. Some experts thought that a discussion of consent was missing from the trial.
Criminal Defense Lawyers Seek Dismissal of Felony Computer Luring Charge
The defendant was a straight-A student and the captain of the soccer team. On the witness stand, the defendant testified that he and the girl had kissed and their underwear rubbed together. He admitted to putting on a condom because he thought he and the girl were going to have sex – but said he then changed his mind. Several friends of the young man testified that he had sent coarse, sexualized emails to the girl and that he also reported having with the girl.
The felony computer conviction, based on the suggestive emails, carries a possible sentence of up to seven years. The defendant also has to register as a sex offender because of the felony, but may be able to petition to be removed from the list at a later date. For now, the defendants are seeking to have the felony computer charge dismissed because the defendant was found not guilty of the felony sexual assault charges. The defense asserts that the felony computer law was aimed at older adults and not at teenage emails and in this case, is an improper stretch of the law.
The trial judge gave the defense lawyers several weeks to research the law and file a brief on the request to dismiss the felony charge and the misdemeanor charges.
Camden Court Criminal Defense Lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, Advocates for Defendants Charged with Sex Crimes
Jill R. Cohen, a former prosecutor, is an experienced and successful Camden County criminal lawyer. She is a strong advocate for clients charged with serious crimes in New Jersey including charges of sexual offenses. Her main offices are located in Westmont, New Jersey. Attorney Cohen aggressively contests each charge by asserting that the law does not apply, it was not properly applied and that the facts do not justify a conviction. Please call for a free consultation or complete an online contact form.