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Lawyer says pre-teen victim testimony isn’t enough to convict Bergenfield man of sex assault

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

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The lawyer for a Colombian national from Bergenfield accused of molesting a pre-teenage girl told jurors in Hackensack today that the case is “lacking facts” because it’s based solely on her testimony.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco (STORY / PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia)

An assistant Bergen County prosecutor countered that the account given by the girl — who turned 15 a month ago — is the only one that matters.

Luis E. Lopez, 53, is accused of molesting her twice nearly a year apart, the first time when she was 12.

Defense attorney William Gonzalez told jurors that it’s “very difficult to disprove something that happened some time ago.”

“There was no testimony of detectives, no DNA, no physical evidence,” he said, as Lopez listened to an interpreter’s translation. “Two years for this case to come to trial, and not one of the detectives ever spoke to the witnesses we put before you.

“You would think they would go to the crime scene, look at that living room,” Gonzalez continued. “They didn’t interview family members, or anyone at school. No one from the hospital testified as to what she told them about this incident.”

The victim, he said, “was very emotional” on the witness stand.

“She testified that on one day, watching a movie, with four or five adults in the room, she was sexually assaulted by my client,” he said. “The lights were off, everyone was wrapped in a blanket. She was seated on one side of the sofa, and he was seated in the middle.”

During her testimony, the girl said the group was watching a horror film when she felt the victim’s hand rubbing her vagina under the blanket. She said she squirmed and tried to move away from him.

Another incident followed, after she’d turned 13, in which Lopez against rubbed her vagina and used his foot to rub his penis, the girl said. She then told a guidance counselor.

“She followed the protocol,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco told jurors. “The counselor informed the principal, he notified the Bergenfield police, they notified DYFS and DYFS contacted the prosecutor.

“It wasn’t a whodunit,” DeMarco said. “We knew who did it. There wasn’t a need to present a parade of police witnesses to testify to information that was largely irrelevant. There were no issues that required CSI evidence.

“We knew who it was — she told us. The fact witness, the victim, told us.”

Lopez had a greater motive to lie than the victim, the prosecutor added.

The violation, by an adult she trusted, traumatized the youngster, DeMarco said.

Jurors will begin deliberations on Monday.

Lopez rejected a plea offer of eight years in prison in June — with parole after six years and nine months — insisting that he wouldn’t agree to any deal that required him to register and report as a Megan’s Law sex offender for life.

Instead, he could face up to 40 years behind bars if he’s convicted of all counts, with no parole eligibility fo 34 years.

Defense attorney William Gonzalez, Luis E. Lopez (STORY / PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia)


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