UPDATE: A Leonia construction worker today dropped what authorities called a blatant set of lies and admitted sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while giving her a ride in his truck last summer.
Wilfredo Arias, 49, pleaded guilty in writing in Hackensack before Superior Court Judge James J. Guida, who rejected a plea attempt yesterday after Arias claimed the girl came on to him.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Natalie Candela insisted on the unusual move, telling Arias that she would agree to the plea only if he put his admission on paper.
Candela told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that she wanted to be sure that Arias kept his part of the bargain this time.
Defense attorney Frank Lucianna, in turn, said that his client “got a good deal” after talking it over last night with his wife, who kept a watchful eye in court today.
“He admitted to forcing [the girl’s hand] onto his penis and putting his hand on her vagina, as well as penetrating her vagina,” Candela said. “He also admitted holding her and grinding against her body.”
Arias yesterday claimed there was a July 3, 2014 party held by his stepdaughter that the victim attended but today said the teens had actually been watching movies that night. She didn’t do or say anything to provoke him in any way, he admitted.
In fact, as Candela told the judge, Arias doesn’t even know the victim’s name.
Guida accepted the guilty plea to sexual assault and child endangerment.
“He could have gotten 15 years in prison if he was tried and convicted,” Lucianna, the defense lawyer, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Under the plea, he’ll get six years and he’ll have to serve 85% of that.
“If the two counts are merged at sentence, he’ll spend only four years and two months in prison.” he said.
Lucianna and Candela both said they were ready for a trial before Arias signed his plea.
Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11, provided that an evaluation is completed at Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel to determine whether Arias is a compulsive sex offender who must be considered for a civil commitment.
In addition to prison time, he must pay fines of about $2,000 and meet the requirements of both Megan’s Law sex offender registration and Nicole’s Law, which permanently prohibits contact with the girl or her family. Arias also will remain under parole supervision for life.
He remains free on $250,000 bail pending sentencing.
A court order prohibits him from living at the home in Leonia.
The case is Arias’ fourth prosecution and the third for a sex offense in the past 15 years.
He previously avoided prison time and Megan’s Law registration when New Jersey’s highest court overturned his 2002 conviction of of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old Little Ferry girl two years earlier he Arias wasn’t allowed to participate in interviews of potential jurors.
The case set a standard for how jurors are selected ( SEE: Previous case of Leonia man now charged in sex assault on girl, 16, prompted changes in jury selection ).
Arias was allowed to then plead guilty to a reduced charge of lewdness in 2005.
He benefitted from another downgraded plea deal four years ago — again keeping him from Megan’s Law registration — after being charged with sexually assaulting a 7-year old Cliffside Park girl.
Arias again pleaded guilty to a reduced charge — lewdness observed by a child under the age of 13 — and was sentenced to 180 days in the Bergen County Jail and three years probation.
Arias finished the jail sentence last April before being arrested in Leonia three months later — violating his probation in the process.
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