This afternoon, in a courtroom in theBergen County Superior Court, a jury convicted David Fernandez, a 40-year old firefighter from the City of Hackensack (pictured left), of sexually assaulting a 13-year old girl. The Indictment contained a total of six counts, alleging that Fernandez had committed various sexual acts against the 13-year old victim. The jury convicted Fernandez of four of the six counts, including Aggravated Sexual Assault andCriminal Sexual Contact for acts of rape, oral sex, and touching of the victim’s breasts. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining two counts.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristen DeMarco stated that she was satisfied with the partial guilty verdict and would not be seeking a re-trial on the remaining two counts. The Honorable James Guida, J.S.C., who presided over the trial, was likewise satisfied, and accepted the partial verdict. He later revoked Fernandez’s bail.
According to reports, Fernandez showed little emotion as the verdict was read. His family members allegedly sobbed quietly as he was being taken from the courtroom in handcuffs.
A key piece of evidence in the trial was a recorded telephone call between the victim’s mother and Fernandez, during which he purportedly admitted to the crimes. Fernandez’s attorney claimed that the telephone call was recorded without his knowledge and “made under duress.” However, as Judge Guida advised the jury prior to their deliberations, under the laws of the State of New Jersey, only one party needs to consent to the recording of a telephone call.
Various inconsistencies in the victim’s story were highlighted by the defense, along with the fact that there was no DNA evidence. But the State maintained that even without “sperm” or any other “physical evidence” (which was apparently unavailable because Fernandez wore a condom), the evidence still pointed to Fernandez’s guilt. The jury obviously agreed.
Sentencing has been scheduled for September 16th. Hernandez faces upwards of 15 years in New Jersey State Prison, 85% of which would have to be served before the benefit of parole under the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) for violent offenders. Hernandez will also likely be subjected to Community Supervision for Life and mandatory Megan’s Law registration as a result of his now being a convicted sex offender.
For more information, see the CliffviewPilot.com article (posted on NJ.com) entitled, “Firefighter convicted of sexually abusing 13-year-old.”