On November 14th, I stood on the steps of the NJ statehouse talking with the head prosecutors from two NJ counties, Sussex and Burlington. I was astonished by their ignorance of their own laws.
Rich Pompellio, the chief catalyst for the Victims’ Rights Amendment of the NJ Constitution was being honored on the amendment’s 25th anniversary. I’d spoken to Rich several times on
various cases of sexual assault by fraud that had come up in NJ, and wanted to shake his hand and show support for his contribution to society.
In attendance were Robert Bernardi, the Burlington County Chief Prosecutor, and Francis A. Koch, the Head Prosecutor from Sussex County.
I reminded Mr. Berardi of his office’s prosecution against William Allen Jordan, an alleged romance scammer, convicted pedophile and bigamist who’d defrauded a Burlington County resident of over $4,000. ADA Steve Eife had handled the case in 2014. I’d advocated for the victim at the time. I mentioned that I thought Eife should have prosecuted Jordan for Sexual Assault, not for Sexual Assault by Coercion, which could not pass muster with the Grand Jury since no coercion took place. I was proven correct when the Grand Jury failed to indict on the coercion charge Eife filed.
I explained to Bernardi that “sexual assault” would have hinged on consent, not coercion, and that Jordan did not have the victim’s consent. He argued that she’d consented, so I stated that was not the case under NJ law, whose definition of consent was patterned after Model Penal Code.
“We’re not a Model Penal Code state,” chimed in Mr. Koch.
“Right,” Bernardi said, as if two incorrect statements turn abject ignorance into fact. “We’re not a Model Penal Code State.”
Remarkably, it’s the same ridiculous answer I’d gotten from Steve Eife when I’d questioned him at the sentencing of Jordan back in 2014. He’d responded, “We’re not a Model Penal Code State.”
I advised Mr. Bernardi to look up the New Jersey definition of consent on page 148 of the state’s penal code. One would think he’d be familiar with the definition, since his job is to uphold the law and protect the citizens of New Jersey from sexual assault. I gave him my contact information to discuss it further once he’d looked up the appropriate statute. Good thing I’m not holding my breath waiting for that phone call!
Why is it that people who are dead wrong ignore you instead of owning up to their errors? It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Bernardi did not learn a single thing about consent in the two years that passed between screwing up the Jordan case and now. How many more victims have to suffer without justice before he gets off his arrogant ignorance and learns what consent really means?
Here’s the language of Model Penal Code:
Consent is ineffective if induced by force, duress or deception.
Here’s the language of New Jersey’s definition of consent:
Consent is ineffective, unless otherwise provided, if it is given by a person who is induced by force, duress, or deception, or by a person who is legally incompetent or otherwise unable to judge the harmfulness of the conduct. N.J.S.A. 2C:2-10c.
To Mr. Bernardi:
You have my number. I’m happy to discuss this issue with you when you want to get real about protecting the citizens of Burlington County from sexual assault!
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