CVP EXCLUSIVE: Jurors in Hackensack cried while convicting an aspiring singer early this evening of sodomizing a 14-year-old Teaneck boy six years ago.
William “Pierre” Sanders, 34, also broke down in tears — as did members of his and the victim’s family — when the guilty verdicts to all three counts he faced were pronounced.
Even the victim’s father, who was stoic and buttoned-down throughout the trial, cried openly.
Jurors deliberated off and on beginning after lunch Thursday, and called for a readback this morning, before convicting Sanders of second-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual contact and third-degree impairing/debauching the morals of a minor.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice told CLIFFVIEW PILOT said she was “heartened that the jury, by this verdict, recognized the ordeal of this courageous young man — courageous to come forward in the first place, and then to carry it through to the end with dignity and resolve.”
Sanders assaulted the boy — now in his 20s — in his studio apartment, then tried to drive him to an important high school event, Maurice said during last week’s openings. The youngster was confused and frightened, however, and called his father to say that he wasn’t going in, she told jurors.
The father testified that his son was “incredibly upset” on the phone the night of the event.
“It was a huge deal over something that I just couldn’t understand,” the father told jurors last week. “I told him, ‘You can still salvage this.’ But his voice was broken, he was crying, and he said ‘I just want to go home.’ I couldn’t understand it.”
This began a downward spiral of changes in the boy’s behavior and attitude toward school work, athletics and life, he said.
After several weeks, the boy told his father that Sanders had molested him years earlier.
The father said he sought to rebuild his son’s confidence while trying to remove Sanders from the family sphere by getting him a job in Atlanta. Sanders is from Ellenwood, GA.
“In my mind, I wanted to make sure [his son] knew it didn’t have to be something that marked him, that he was just a little boy,” he told jurors. “The important thing was to get beyond it, and we would help him. It didn’t have to mark him.”
He didn’t take action against Pierre, he said, because, “despicable as it was, the key thing was to get my son past it.”
The youngster continued to withdraw and underperform, however. Then came the admission of the June 2010 rape, the father testified.
“I asked, ‘Why didn’t you push him off?’ And he said the way he was being held, he couldn’t. He felt like he was paralyzed.”
When the father went to school to discuss helping his son, a counselor said she was required to notify the police. He said he then made a statement “as soon as they asked me for one.”
Defense attorney Robert N. Kalisch told jurors the claims didn’t add up.
“Is it just a boatload of hooey?” he asked.
The family had a problem, Kalisch said: Sanders wasn’t succeeding as a music headliner, but his brother was.
The victim’s mother met the Sanders brothers in Atlanta. She joined them with two cousins to create a pop gospel group called Generation J (for Jesus) in 1998.
The brothers were originally scheduled to appear on “American Idol.” Aaron Sanders made it, but William didn’t, Kalisch explained.
The family is “very wealthy,” he told jurors. “They live on Central Park South, if that means anything to you. It is show business. That is what they were grooming [William Sanders] for.”
In closing arguments last Thursday, Kalisch cited what he called a one-sided management contract as part of an “exploitative” relationship among Sanders, his talented brother, and the victim’s parents: the mother, a known and talented vocal coach and group manager, and her husband a financial expert.
Together, they had worked with the Sanders brothers to break them into the music business in a big way.
But it was not to be.
“When his career was no longer going so well, they had a problem,” Kalisch said.
So they tried to separate the Sanders brothers emotionally and physically, sending Pierre back to Atlanta to work in production when he couldn’t maintain a svelte weight and body and when he repeatedly failed to captivate record company producers, the attorney said.
The victim “wanted to help his father get rid of Pierre,” Kalisch said.
Although not an especially long trial — over six days, with five witnesses who included the defendant — it was highly charged.
Just before the verdict was pronounced, the victim’s parents huddled with a small group of family and friends, their faces creased with worry.
On the other side of the courtroom, Aaron Sanders sat with his head in his hands. Both family groups — Sanders’ brother and the victim’s parents — attended every day of the trial.
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