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Charles Leaf to wife: ‘Tell the kids I love them’ after child sex assault conviction

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: “Tell the kids I love them, Monica,” Charles Leaf shouted to his wife as Bergen County Sheriff’s officers led him from a Hackensack courtroom moments after jurors this afternoon convicted the Emmy-winning former Fox 5 investigative reporter of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and of possessing child pornography on his home computer in Wyckoff.

Leaf, 44, briefly flinched ( photo above ), the corners of his mouth turning down tightly, as jurors returned the decisions following a little more than five hours of deliberations over two days.

Monica Leaf, who sat in the gallery throughout the entire trial, put her head down.

Superior Court Judge James J. Guida revoked Leaf’s bail over the protests of defense attorney Brian Neary, and set a June 6 sentencing date. Bergen County Sheriff’s officers then handcuffed Leaf and took him to the Bergen County Jail.

“It was a long process to get through this trial. And the trial itself was quite lengthy,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “The state’s evidence was thoroughly reviewed and tested.

“We appreciate the time and effort the jury put in at arriving at this fair and just verdict.”

Defense attorney Emile Lisboa, in turn, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT : “It’s a scary day when you have a witness who says it didn’t happen, and a tape that’s erased, and the defendant is convicted anyway.”

Monica Leaf looking at her husband before the verdict this afternoon
(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

The girl, now 8, was the first witness to testify in the trial when it began on Jan. 7.

Showing considerable composure, she told jurors that Leaf never molested her and that the allegations she made two years ago were fed to her by her nanny.

Ralph, during his summation last week, called her a victim of “outside influences” who counseled her to lie on the stand.

“You can’t blame a little girl” for lying in what Ralph said was an effort to make the whole situation go away and return to her family, the prosecutor said. “But that is not the reality.”

Ralph contended that the defense team’s insistence that nanny Weronika Karwowska concocted the story and coached the child “makes no sense.”

He called the girl “weak, sad and helpless” and said she “betrayed [Leaf] by telling the secret he told her to keep.”

The only outside influence, Neary contended, came from prosecutor’s investigators who lengthened the forensic interview of the girl from a law-enforcement standard 20 to 25 minutes for a child of her age to nearly 90 minutes.

Neary also pointed to a 21-minute gap in the video of that interview, after which the girl changes her story at the apparent prompting of the investigator.

An emotional Leaf was moved to tears several times during the trial — and remained steadfast and insistent on the stand that he was innocent. Throughout the proceedings, he carried tokens from his children, including a Minecraft warrior sent by his son for good luck.

The jurors endured a bit in just over a month — 21 days of which were in trial.

One of the original 16 was hit by a car, two suffered deaths in their immediate families and a fourth was dismissed after telling fellow panelists he’d already made up his mind while complaining about the length of the trial.

At one point there was a lengthy discussion of continuing with only 11 jurors because yet another member of the panel had vacation plans. The possibility of a two-week break was raised, but the conflict with the juror was quickly resolved.

Two trial days were cancelled by snow, another by a flooded courthouse, and three others had already been cut short by the weather.

Those testifying besides the girl, the nanny and Leaf himself included his father-in-law, who flew from Poland to tell the jurors in Hackensack that child pornography found on a desktop computer seized from the family room of the Leaf home in Wyckoff was his.

The jurors began deliberating just after 1 o’clock yesterday. An hour later, they asked to see replays of portions of an investigator’s interview with the girl.

That took about an hour, after which they resumed deliberating for another two, finishing at 5 p.m.

They picked up again at 9:30 this morning, then called for a clarification of the legal definitions of “contact” and “body” around 11 a.m.

Guida said there is no legal definition of body, other than the common meaning.

Contact, he told them, could be any touching by one person of an intimate body part of another — provided it was intended “to degrade or humiliate the victim, or sexually gratify the actor.”

Roughly an hour and a half after their questions were answered, the jurors announced that they’d reached a verdict.

They found him guilty of all charges — aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, child endangerment, possession of child pornography and tampering with evidence.

The most serious charge of aggravated sexual assault — in a word: rape — carries up to 20 years in prison, followed by lifelong parole as a Megan’s Law offender.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

THE TRIAL:

Prosecutor in Charles Leaf child sex assault trial calls alleged victim, 8, a liar

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: The child sex abuse trial of former FOX 5 investigative reporter Charles Leaf closed late Friday with the prosecutor trying to impeach the credibility of his key witness — the now-8-year-old alleged victim. READ MORE ….

Leaf emphatically denies child sex assault charges, says father-in-law had kiddie porn

SPECIAL REPORT: A prosecutor hit former Fox 5 reporter Charles Leaf hard yesterday in his child sex abuse trial, but the Emmy-winning investigator remained steadfast. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph (w/Leaf and defense attorney Brian Neary) during the trial

Charles Leaf professes innocence on stand, blasts nanny

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A passionate Charles Leaf, testifying this morning in his own defense, emphatically denied sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl — and accused the state’s key witness in the case of being untrustworthy. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Odd twists in Charles Leaf child sex assault trial happen outside court

EXCLUSIVE: With the final witnesses set to testify, the child sex assault trial of former FOX 5 investigative reporter Charles Leaf has been marked nearly as much by what’s gone out outside the trial as what’s been revealed inside the Hackensack courtroom. READ MORE ….

Krystof Wilsky on the stand during the trial


* * * * * *

Father-in-law testifies that child pornography found on computer of Charles Leaf was his

EXCLUSIVE: The father-in-law of former FOX TV reporter Charles Leaf testified yesterday in his son-in-law’s child sex assault trial that child pornography found by Bergen County prosecutor’s detectives on Leaf’s computer was actually his. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Nanny in TV reporter Charles Leaf child sex assault trial begins testimony

EXCLUSIVE: The nanny in the child sex assault trial of former FOX TV reporter Charles Leaf testified today that the alleged victim told her that he touched her “there” — after previously insisting two or three times that he didn’t. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Lawyer, investigator clash over methods in Charles Leaf child sex trial

EXCLUSIVE: Two full days of scrupulous questioning in the child sex assault trial of former Fox 5 TV reporter Charles Leaf ended yesterday in Hackensack with a defense attorney and chief investigator from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office continuing to butt heads. READ MORE ….

Weronika Karwowska on the stand earlier in the trial

* * * * * *

Surprise revelation in child sex trial: Fox 5 reporter’s work computer searched for kiddie porn

EXCLUSIVE: A retired investigator testified today that Bergen County detectives searched for child pornography on the work computer of former Fox 5 reporter Charles Leaf — a fact apparently not told to defense lawyers or prosecutors before his child sex abuse trial began this week. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Investigator in TV reporter child sex trial talks of gap in victim interview recording

EXCLUSIVE: The second day in the child sex-abuse trial of former Fox 5 reporter Charles Leaf in Hackensack today featured a former investigator testifying about an interview she observed with the then-4-year-old girl who prosecutors say was the victim. READ MORE ….

* * * * * *

Girl, 8, in sex-assault trial says Fox TV reporter didn’t molest her

UPDATE: Showing considerable composure, an 8-year-old girl testified in Hackensack today that former FOX 5 reporter Charles Leaf never touched her and that molestation allegations she made to a therapist years ago were fed to her by her nanny, whom she called “Weronika.” READ MORE ….

(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

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