Bergen County NJ Closing Arguments in Former Fox News Reporter Case
By Travis Tormey posted in Sex Crimes on Tuesday, February 18, 2014
With ongoing coverage of the Bergen County Superior Court trial of former Fox News reporter, 43-year-old Charles Leaf, attorneys for the opposing sides gave their closing arguments on Friday, February 14th.
Among the charges brought against Leaf, which include aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, attempting to intimidate a witness, possession of child pornography, and hindering apprehension or prosecution, those for for aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child involve the alleged victimization of his then 4-year-old daughter.
After declining a plea offer of seven to eight years imprisonment from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in September, Leaf and his defense attorney moved forward with the trial, presenting a number of witnesses who testified on his behalf. His daughter, now 8, was the defense’s central witness, denying the previous molestation allegations she had made to a therapist and claiming that she was told to say such things by the nanny, who testified for the prosecution that Leaf’s daughter confided in her about the sexual abuse.
According to Leaf’s wife, he is not responsible for the crimes for which he is accused and was framed by the nanny who was then employed by the family. Leaf also adamantly denied the charges against him during his testimony, alleging that his father-in-law, Kristoff Wilsky, was responsible for downloading the child pornography found on the computer in Leaf’s home. Wilsky substantiated this claim when he was questioned before the court.
As the case drew to a close, both attorneys’ closing arguments contained references to the validity of Leaf’s daughter’s testimony. In his closing statement, Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph questioned the credibility of Leaf’s daughter’s testimony, attempting to paint the picture of a helpless, victimized girl who was coached into saying what was necessary to keep her family intact.
Conversely, Leaf’s defense attorney criticized investigators from the prosecutor’s office for prolonging their questioning of the young girl; he cited that while the standard length of time for a child her age ranges from 20 to 25 minutes, while her interview lasted for almost 90. In addition, the defense claimed that the alleged victim only changed her account of the events after being coerced by the investigator, events which he says took place during the 21-minute gap in the video.
The trial, which lasted slightly over a month and concluded late Friday, could result in a lengthy term of incarceration for Leaf if he is ultimately found guilty of any or all of the charges. The charges for aggravated sexual assault alone, which is considered a crime of the first degree under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, includes a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 20 years upon conviction. In addition, aggravated sexual assault is one of the designated offenses under the No Early Release Act (known as the “NERA”). This statute requires defendants to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole. As such, a conviction for aggravated sexual assault would subject Leaf to a term of at least 8.5 years in New Jersey State Prison.
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Prosecutor in Charles Leaf child sex assault trial calls alleged victim, 8, a liar