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Because sexual misconduct or sexual abuse charges carry a heavy stigma and can result in damage to the reputations of the accused, it is important to remember that anyone charged with a sex crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Readers in Hackensack, New Jersey, may be interested in the case of an Essex County sheriff's officer who was arrested on Oct. 11 after allegations that he had sexually abused two minor girls. Authorities report that the girls were both friends of the family, and the girls allege that the man abused them over a span of six years. One could question why they waited so long to come forward.

The girls apparently were spurred to go to the police after the 48-year-old man made a "sexually inappropriate" comment to one of them, according to a prosecutor. Following an investigation by the Essex County sheriff's office and the Passaic County prosecutor's Special Victims Unit, the 24-year-veteran of law enforcement was suspended without pay.

The man is being charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, second-degree sexual assault, two counts of fourth-degree lewdness and two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. These are serious charges, as a conviction on the sexual assault charge alone can result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Sex-crime charges can have major consequences on the accused's personal and professional life. And since the accused is a police officer, it's unlikely that the public will give the man much support. These charges after often aggressively prosecuted, and it is important that defendants make sure to understand the charges made against them. It's probably fair to question whether the man can get a fair trial in his home county.

Source: NorthJersey.com, "Essex sheriff's officer from Wayne charged with sexually abusing two girls," Abbott Koloff and Justo Bautista, Oct. 11, 2012

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