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Surprise revelation in child sex trial: Fox 5 reporter’s work computer searched for kiddie porn

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

EXCLUSIVE: A retired investigator testified today that Bergen County detectives searched for child pornography on the work computer of former Fox 5 reporter Charles Leaf — a fact apparently not told to defense lawyers or prosecutors before his child sex abuse trial began this week.

Barbara Stio said a forensic computer expert who accompanied  her and her colleagues from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to Fox 5 headquarters in New York found nothing illegal.

The revelation, however, brought strong challenges from the defense team — both with jurors in and out of the Hackensack courtroom.

Superior Court Judge James J. Guida, defense attorneys Brian Neary and S. Emile Lisboa
(ALL PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

“Your honor,” defense attorney S. Emile Lisboa told Superior Court Judge James J. Guida, “we received a copy of every other computer disk in the investigation except this one. Where is the copy of the disk?”

Both Lisboa and lead defense attorney Brian Neary challenged the omission as a willful failure to disclose information as required by law.

Guida, however, said firmly: “There’s no prosecutorial misconduct.”

“You have every right to tell the jury nothing was found there,” the judge told Neary and Lisboa, “but my point is if you contend there was some kind of prosecutorial misconduct that could result in a mistrial, we’re not going there.

“It’s not a violation that’s going to result in a mistrial.”

“Trust me, the last thing I want at this point is a mistrial,” Neary replied.

Authorities said they found child pornography on the home computer that Leaf used when he lived in Wyckoff — despite what they said were his attempts to remove it.

Child porn possession counts are part of the prosecution’s case against Leaf, who is being tried on charges of sexually abusing a girl in 2010 when she was 4 years old.

Earlier today, Neary pressed Stio on details of the Manhattan visit by prosecutor’s detectives.

“When did you go to Fox 5?” he asked.

She said she didn’t remember.

“Who was the computer tech?”

“I can’t remember the name of the guy,” Stio replied.

“Where is the report?” Neary asked.

“There is no report,” she answered.

“Did you take any notes?” he continued.

“No,” Stio replied.

“Did [investigator] Cora Taylor take notes?”

“No,” she said.

The matter concluded for the time being with the agreement that Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph would locate the tech in his office’s computer investigations unit.

Following a lunch break, Ralph told Guida he discovered that a copy of the hard drive had been made following the November 2010 computer search but that it had since been lost.

Ralph also said he would call the investigator, Andre DiMinno, as a witness if necessary.

DiMinno could take the witness stand as early as Monday.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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