Nelson Fernandez, a North Bergen man accused of raping an 8-year old girl and distributing child pornography, appeared in Hudson County Superior Court earlier this week and rejected a plea deal that would have kept him out of prison, indicating that he wants to go to trial. (He is pictured to the left with his lawyer.)
Fernandez, now 40-years old, stands charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault, multiple counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Child Abuse, as well as Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography. If convicted after trial, he faces upwards of 60 years in jail, most likely with a requirement that he serve a substantial period before becoming eligible for parole.
Fernandez was a volunteer youth wrestling coach for Washington Township. He is alleged to have filmed himself raping an 8-year old girl, which he then purportedly showed to a female who reported the incident to authorities in November of 2011. During the investigation that followed, authorities discovered a total of 14 child pornography videos in Fernandez’s possession, but never located the purported video of him raping the 8-year old girl.
The deal offered by the State would have required Fernandez to plead guilty to one charge of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, third degree, in exchange for which the State would have recommended a 5-year suspended prison sentence. As part of the plea deal, Fernandez would have been subjected to community supervision for life, Megan’s Law registration, and a “no contact” order (prohibiting him from any contact with the victim).
A hearing has been scheduled for March 18th, at which point Fernandez’s defense attorney will be seeking to bar the State from using any evidence pertaining to the 14 child pornography videos at the time of trial on the grounds that they are too “prejudicial.” After the court issues its ruling, a trial date will likely be set.
For more information, see the Jersey Journal article entitled, “North Bergen man charged with raping girl will stand trial after rejecting plea.”