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State v. L.C.

March 19, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 06-01-0077.

Per curiam.



Submitted November 17, 2008

Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.

Following a jury trial, defendant L.C. was convicted of second-degree sexual assault by physical force or coercion, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(1); second-degree sexual assault on a related victim aged sixteen to eighteen years old, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2-(c)(3)(a); and second-degree sexual assault while having supervisory or disciplinary power over a victim aged sixteen to eighteen years old, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2-(c)(3)(b). After appropriate mergers, the trial judge sentenced defendant to seven years in State prison, with an 85% period of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The judge also sentenced defendant to Megan's Law registration and parole supervision for life, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4, together with mandated penalties, assessments and fees. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.

These are the facts adduced at trial. On May 25, 2005, A.C., aged sixteen, moved from Costa Rica to the United States to live with her mother, R.C., and her stepfather, defendant.

A.C. knew defendant from his previous visits to Costa Rica. The three lived together in defendant's apartment located in Union.

According to A.C.'s testimony, on the morning of June 4, 2005, A.C.'s mother left for work leaving A.C. in defendant's care. Defendant and A.C. were intending to go to defendant's place of work, a garage, to clean cars. Instead defendant drove to Home Depot and bought two sets of doorknobs. Defendant then drove back to the apartment, informing A.C. that they were going to change the doorknobs of her room and her mother's room. Once inside the apartment, defendant changed the doorknob to A.C.'s room with tools from a toolbox that he kept under A.C.'s bed. He then closed and locked the door.

Defendant started kissing A.C. on the cheeks. When A.C. yelled "no, no" defendant grabbed her by the shoulders and directed her towards the bed. When A.C. began to protest, defendant told her to keep quiet and threatened to hit her with a tool. A.C. tried to exit the room by telling defendant that she needed to use the bathroom, to drink water and that they could do this another day. Defendant stated that he knew that she wanted to escape so he escorted her to get a drink of water and chained the door of the apartment. He also stated that this was "his opportunity, and if he didn't do it that day, he wouldn't do it ever."

Defendant then took A.C. back to her room and forced her to remove her clothes by threatening to hit her. After A.C. removed all of her clothes, defendant threw her onto the bed, removed his clothes and began to kiss her all over her body and touch her breasts. A.C. continued crying and yelling, and defendant told her to be quiet. Defendant then grabbed her knees, forced her legs apart and performed cunnilingus causing her pain. Defendant also touched the outside and inside lips of A.C.'s vagina with his penis.

The assault ended when A.C. agreed to kiss defendant twice with her tongue if he allowed her to get dressed. On that day, A.C. was wearing a thong-type underwear and a pantiliner. While he got dressed, defendant told A.C. to fix her bed and change the doorknob. Because she wanted to prove that she was assaulted, A.C. arranged her plush toys all over the bed and switched the screws on the old doorknob. Defendant then took A.C. to a garage sale and bought her a T.V. Afterwards they went to the garage where defendant was employed. At approximately 4 p.m., A.C.'s mother picked up A.C. from the garage.

When A.C. entered the car, she started crying. A.C., responding to her mother's inquiries, told her mother what happened; her mother became very upset and telephoned a family friend, A.A. A.C.'s mother told A.A. that there was a "problem" with defendant, and she wanted to leave. A.A. and his wife met A.C. and her mother at defendant's apartment, where they packed some belongings and went to A.A.'s residence. A.C. and A.A. had a brief conversation about what happened. After, A.A., A.C. and her mother went to the Union Township Police Department where A.A. acted as an interpreter for A.C. and her mother. At the police station, they spoke to Detective Constantine Sedares. Detective Sedares, A.C., her mother and A.A. went to Trinitas Hospital where A.C. underwent a sexual assault examination.

After the examination, Detective Sedares received the sexual assault examination kit and A.C.'s clothing. A.C. also provided ...

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