YOU READ IT HERE FIRST (Update): “It hurt,” a 9-year-old girl testified this morning, breaking into sobs, during the child molestation trial of former Ramsey police officer Jeffrey Kimmel.
The girl looked directly at Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice and defense attorney Craig Swenson, answering in a firm voice, as each took turns questioning her in a Hackensack courtroom.
Then, while responding to Swenson, her voice tightened.
Crying loud enough for all to hear, she talked of how she was molested on Halloween weekend 2010, when she was 6.
“How do you know it was 2010?” Swenson asked.
“Because I remember,” she replied.
“Did anyone tell you this week it was 2010?”
“No,” she answered.
Swenson tried getting more details, asking several questions about the weekend and her surroundings — including what the residence where she said she was molested looked like and what she had for breakfast, among others.
She did recall the time of year: “I remember celebrating Halloween then.”
“Do you remember talking to the investigators?” Swenson asked.
“No,” she said.
Asked whether her mother suggested she make up the story, she replied: “I don’t remember.”
Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma spoke in a firm but fatherly tone in orienting the child to the courtroom. He also asked whether she understood the truth.
“Yes,” she replied firmly.
Roma yesterday ruled that Maurice needed to put the child on the stand if she wanted to play a recording of her 2010 interview with detectives.
Swenson had argued against the move, saying: “There’s no spontaneity. It’s the same phrase over and over.”
He also suggested investigators may have deliberately led her into particular answers.
“I did not see any prompting,” Roma said yesterday. “They were responses clearly given by the child. She made certain mistakes, and was able to come back and correct them. She corrected mistakes by the investigator. “The information was trustworthy, the responses aren’t initiated. The questions allowed the child to move in different directions. She would drift off and the interviewer would redirect her.”
So, in an extremely delicate and sensitive atmosphere, the girl was the first witness in the case against Kimmel, 49, of Oakland, which opened this morning in Superior Court.
Maurice told jurors in advance that the girl, because of her age, won’t be able to describe her experience in adult terms.
She urged them to listen to the youngster and not try to figure out why or how the incidents allegedly happened over Halloween weekend 2010.
“Why do people do bad things?” Maurice asked during this morning’s opening statement. “Especially, why would someone molest a child?
“That’s not the question before you,” she quickly added. “It’s whether or not it happened — whether or not Jeffrey Kimmel molested this child.”
Swenson told jurors that the child’s statement doesn’t make sense.
“I understand she was only 6, but we’re talking about a man’s life here,” he said. “When you have heard the facts, you won’t be able to find Jeffrey Kimmel guilty.”
Sentenced to six years in prison in July 2009 for stealing more than $133,000 from his former department and union, Kimmel was released into a supervisory program after seven months. However, members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit arrested him again last April on charges of sexually touching the girl:
- CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE: Former Ramsey Police Officer Jeffrey Kimmel was back behind bars yesterday, charged with sexual assault and child endangerment while on supervised release for stealing more than $133,000 from his former department and union three years ago. READ MORE….
Kimmel, who remains held without bail in the Bergen County Jail, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of sexual assault and child endangerment.
A former dispatcher and traffic officer, Kimmel had been PBA Local 155′s treasurer before his arrest. The 14-year department veteran was known for his good works, including giving children’s car seats to parents who couldn’t afford them.
Kimmel, who made a public apology and paid back more than half of the money, has three children of his own.
The courts are closed for Good Friday tomorrow. The trial is set to resume next week.
STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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