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State v. Stahl

May 7, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ERIC D. STAHL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 06-12-1933.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 15, 2008

Before Judges Winkelstein and Yannotti.

Defendant Eric D. Stahl pled guilty to second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, by disseminating a photograph or reproduction that depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4b(5)(a). The State appeals from the judgment of conviction entered on March 16, 2007, and argues that the judge erred by sentencing defendant to a probationary term. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

According to the pre-sentence report submitted to the trial court, in February 2005, S.T. reported to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office (BCPO), that she met defendant through an on-line dating service, and thereafter defendant sent her an e-mail in which he stated that he had engaged in oral and anal sex with juvenile males and females. S.T. provided Detective Cranston of the BCPO with a copy of the e-mail, and he investigated the allegations.

During the course of that investigation, S.T. gave Cranston additional information. She told the detective that defendant had sent her certain e-mails with attached photographs that contained pornographic images of children. Detectives Cranston and Clements met with S.T. on March 15, 2005, at the headquarters of the Evesham Township Police Department (ETPD). At the meeting, S.T. turned over four photographs that defendant had e-mailed to her. Three of the four photos depicted adults engaging in sexual acts with children. The detectives thereafter obtained a warrant to search defendant's apartment for evidence.

Members of the BCPO and officers of ETPD executed the warrant. They informed defendant of his Miranda rights.*fn1

Defendant said that his personal home computer contained between twenty and thirty images of adults engaging in sexual acts with children. Defendant also stated that he sent others images of child pornography on twenty occasions.

Detective Cranston showed defendant two of the photos that S.T. had turned over to him. Defendant said that at times, he sends photos depicting children engaged in sexual acts to others, such as S.T. Defendant's personal computer was seized. Images depicting child pornography were found on the computer.

At sentencing, defendant submitted a report from Dr. Gerald Cooke, who is a clinical psychologist. In his report, Cooke noted that defendant told him that he said things that were not true concerning sex with children in order to "manipulate people[.]" Defendant said that he did so because he was lonely. Defendant told Cooke that S.T. wanted to have a relationship with defendant but "he was just playing with her and did not find her attractive." Defendant admitted that he had images of children involved in explicit sex acts on his personal computer and that he had transmitted some of those images to S.T. as well as to another woman named Kendra, who he "met" on an Internet chat room.

Cooke administered certain psychological tests to defendant, and based on the results of those tests and his interview with defendant, Cooke concluded that there was no evidence that defendant was suffering from a personality disorder or diagnosable mental illness. He wrote that the most appropriate diagnosis for defendant was a paraphilia, not otherwise specified, with voyeuristic and exhibitionistic features.

Cooke additionally wrote that he found no evidence that defendant had a particular or specific interest in prepubescent children. Cooke asserted that in his opinion, defendant "does not pose a significant danger of acting out towards children and does not show the characteristics of a sexually violent predator." He concluded that a diagnosis of pedophilia was not warranted.

Defendant also submitted a report from Dr. Philip Bobrove, who also is a clinical psychologist. In his report, Bobrove noted that defendant had been his patient since 2003 and had been in "nearly weekly" psychotherapy since March 2005. Bobrove stated that defendant has been "sad and depressed for many years[.]" The doctor wrote that he and defendant had worked ...


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