A volunteer with the Passaic County Special Deputy Sheriff Program was arrested last Wednesday after an alleged victim told law enforcement officers that he had been repeatedly sexually assaulted over a 2-month period. According to authorities, the victim revealed that while he was working a summer job at a Totowa health food store in 2000, he was recurrently assaulted by the store’s owner, James Perna. The victim was only 13-years old at the time.
Perna, now 53-years old and a resident of Wayne, was charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. If convicted of Aggravated Sexual Assault, the more serious of the charges, he could face a maximum of 20 years in New Jersey State Prison, with 85% to be served before the benefit of parole as per the No Early Release Act (“NERA”). Perna would also be subjected to Community Supervision for Life and mandatory Megan’s Law registration. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in court tomorrow (Tuesday, February 19th).
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes confirmed that Perna was most recently employed as a member of the Passaic County Volunteer Special Deputy Sheriff Program. Although members of the program are unpaid, they are supposed to pass background checks and undergo special training. Perna was also working as a temporary security guard at the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson, but has been fired.
Authorities revealed that Perna may have assaulted additional juveniles. They are encouraging any other victims to come forward and contact Detective Lieutenant Steve Batte at (862) 236-0436.
For more information, see the NJ.com article entitled, “Volunteer Passaic County sheriff’s deputy charged with sexual assault of boy, 13.”