I represented a client recently in the Ocean County Superior Court in Toms River, New Jersey on a post-conviction relief application. The defendant plead guilty to endangering the welfare of a child in the 3rd degree in the late 1990’s based on an allegation that he inappropriately touched the young daughter of his boss who was about 12 years old at the time of the alleged crime. The defendant was arrested after a weekend vacation with his boss and his boss’s family to Great Adventure located in Jackson, New Jersey. The defendant was informed that an allegation was made by the little girl that he inappropriately touched her during the vacation when they were alone at the campground. My client was innocent but was threatened with five (5) to ten (10) years in state prison as a sex offender based on a second degree endangering the welfare of a child charge. As such, he was represented by a public defender and plead guilty to a third degree endangering charge with probation and Megan’s Law registration.
Almost ten years later, the defendant, now married and living with his wife and two step-children in Connecticut, was forced to move out of his own home because he was not permitted, under Megan’s Law, to live with his own children. Around the same time, the defendant ran into his old boss, who had cut ties with him after the charges arose, who informed him that his daughter was very upset to learn that the defendant plead guilty to the endangering charge in the late 90’s. The alleged victim, now a 25 year old married woman, told her father and the defendant that absolutely nothing happened (inappropriate or otherwise) between herself and the defendant and that her mother encouraged her to file charges. The reason for the fabricated allegations was for her mother to gain leverage in a custody dispute over the daughter between the mother and father. Because the defendant was her father’s best friend and worked for him, her mother used the allegations to gain custody of the daughter at the time.
Based on this new evidence, I filed a post-conviction relief application to have my client’s guilty plea overturned. The original motion was denied by the Ocean County Superior Court. I appealed that denial to the Appellate Division which reversed the lower court and directed that the case be set down for a testimonial hearing in Toms River. The hearing was held and the alleged victim flew up from North Carolina to set the record straight. She testified in no uncertain terms that nothing of any inappropriate nature ever happened between the defendant and herself that weekend or any other weekend, ever. Her father also testified as to the custody issues and the fact that he never believed the allegations to be true despite the fact that he obviously believed his daughter and cut all ties with the defendant once the allegations arose. Based on this testimony, the guilty plea was vacated and the case was re-opened. After reviewing the case, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office realized that they had no evidence and that the testimony of the alleged victim clearly showed that no crime was ever committed. As such, the charges were dismissed against my client. He now has no record from this crime and is no longer forced to register under Megan’s Law.