ONLY ON CVP: Following a series of postponements, a judge in Hackensack yesterday gave a Leonia construction worker accused of sexually assaulting accused a 16-year-old girl last summer another month to accept a five-year plea deal or go to trial.
Wilfredo Arias, 49, who has remained free on $250,000 bail, approached a CLIFFVIEW PILOT reporter after court yesterday and asked that the proceedings not be reported.
“It is hurting my family,” he said.
Arias, who has a history of sexual offenses, is accused of sticking his fingers into the girl’s vagina and putting her hand on his penis in his van after offering her a ride last July 3. Police said they arrested him after the girl broke free and dialed 911.
Repeating a previous complaint, defense attorney Frank Lucianna told the judge yesterday that audio discs of his client’s statement to police are “very difficult to hear.”
Superior Court Judge James J. Guida said he’d already given the 92-year-old attorney more time to solve the problem in early February.
“What happened in the last six weeks?” he wondered.
In the end, the judge agreed to give Lucianna and Arias until April 13 to respond to the offer from prosecutors.
The case is Arias’ fourth prosecution and the third for a sex offense in the past 15 years.
Arias 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 because Arias wasn’t allowed to participate in interviews of potential jurors.
The case set a standard for how jurors are selected, as CLIFFVIEW PILOT exclusively reported last year ( 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.
A five-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Hackensack last October accuses him of sexual assault by “placing his fingers in [the girl’s] vaginal labia through physical force or coercion,” with “no severe personal injury.”
It says he also “[placed] her hand on his penis” through “physical force or coercion,” and that he pressed his groin against hers, “rubbing or grinding.”
Included with the one assault and three sexual contact charges is a count of child endangerment.
STORY / PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
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