Hudson County man’s monetary fines for ‘debauching the morals of a child’ will be reconsidered

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A Hudson County man’s monetary fines for a child endangerment conviction that indicates he engaged in sexual conduct that “would impair of debauch the morals of a child” will be reconsidered, though he still lost the majority of his appeal.

Joel Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Defendant’s second and third arguments concern monetary aspects of the sentence imposed. He argues that the judge erred in imposing a $500 Sex Crime Victim Treatment Fund penalty … without considering defendant’s ability to pay or the nature of the offense and without providing a reason for his determination,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Clarkson Fisher and Richard Gilson wrote in today’s opinion.

“Defendant also argues that the judge erred in imposing a Certain Sexual Offenders surcharge … because that statute permits a surcharge only when the defendant has been convicted of ‘an act of aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault’ … ”

Joel A. Rodriguez, 34, was convicted of second-degree child endangerment, while also being acquitted of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and second-degree sexual assault back in February 2018 after a seven-day jury trial.

The alleged victim was the 10-year-old daughter of his girlfriend at the time.

In his appeal, Rodriguez’s counsel, Public Defender Joseph Krakora, argued that Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez erroneously admitted the alleged victim’s statements as evidence, improperly charged the jury, and erred in following procedures during sentencing.

The appellate court rejected all of these arguments, though agreed that the monetary penalties issued may have been improper.

“The State agrees with defendant’s correct positions on both these monetary assessments. Accordingly, we remand for further proceedings on the SCTVF assessment and for an amended judgment of conviction that does not contain a CSO surcharge … ”

Therefore, the case will be remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. Also of note, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal represented the state in this matter.

According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Rodriguez received a six-year sentence on December 11th, 2018 and was released on parole on August 6th, 2020.

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