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‘Faulty technology’ should stop case against Elmwood Park men charged with recording sex with drunk girl, 15, lawyers argue

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

ONLY ON CVP: Attorneys for four Elmwood Park men accused of videotaping themselves having sex with a drunken 15-year-old girl took the first steps today toward having the charges dismissed.

The reason: faulty technology.

A grand jury in Hackensack indicted former Elmwood Park High School football players Ashari Wilson, Craig Howe ( above, inset ) and Justin Draper ( above, right ), along with a fourth man, Jacardi Barnes, for first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a physically helpless victim, impairing the morals of a minor and filming a child having sex, among other counts.

“Technology was not on the prosecutor’s side that day,” Draper’s lawyer, Frank Carbonetti, told Superior Court Judge Frances A. McGrogan, alleging that the video froze as the grand jury viewed it.

Speaking for the group, Carbonetti stopped short of requesting that the charges be dismissed. He said he would first give Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco the chance to empanel a new grand jury.

He also suggested that the judge view the evidence privately.

DeMarco said she didn’t consider it necessary to pursue a new indictment but would consult with her superiors before deciding. She promised to get back to the defense lawyers by July 8.

Recorded on an iPhone by Wilson, the video contains 45 to 60 seconds of a sexual assault, she said.

“While the video did freeze momentarily,” it was very brief, DeMarco said later.

The grand jurors “could still see what the evidence was,” she said.

Carbonetti also said that he and his colleagues are seeking a birth certificate for the victim — whom they contend was over 18 — along with medical and school records and any evidence that she’d been in drug rehabilitation.

The girl was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center after her parents found her unconscious on their front lawn on June 21, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said last summer.

Her blood-alcohol content was 0.27, he said.

The sex took place earlier in the Falmouth Avenue backyard of a home that Howe and Draper share, the prosecutor added.

A friend of the girl’s also reported seeing a video of her on Wilson’s phone “engaging in sexual activity on that date with several men while she appeared to be highly intoxicated,” Molinelli said at the time.

Prosecutor’s detectives then interviewed the girl and her friend, he said.

“During those interviews, the victim provided limited information regarding her recollection of that date and her friend described what she observed on the phone,” Molinelli said.

“That video was subsequently recovered by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Unit,” he said.

Although lawyers for all four defendants were in court today, Barnes, 18, and Wilson, 19, waived their appearances. Wilson remained held on $150,000 bail and Barnes on $82,500 bail in the Bergen County Jail.

Howe and Draper, both 19, remained free on $150,000 bail each.

From left: Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco; defense attorneys Landry Belizaire and Kenyatta Stewart; Craig Howe; defense attorneys Moses Rambarran, Frank Carbonetti and Frank Lucianna, Justin Draper (STORY / PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia)

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