IRVINGTON, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II announced May 7 that an Essex County Grand Jury has returned an indictment charging Jose Morales, 33, of Irvington, with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child for possessing more than 100,000 items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child.
He was arraigned May 6 on the charges before Superior Court Judge Alfonse J. Cifelli.
Morales was arrested Nov. 1, 2018, following the execution of a search warrant at his home in Irvington. The search was conducted by members of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Freier, who is handling the case, the investigation was initiated when Morales uploaded the material to an online account. Upon becoming aware of the nature of the images and videos uploaded to Morales’ account, the online provider notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and a referral was submitted to the ECPO.
When Morales was arrested, he was charged with possessing at least 1,000 but fewer than 100,000 items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child, but the subsequent forensic examination of storage media seized from his home revealed that he possessed more than 100,000 files depicting such abuse, Freier said.
The New Jersey Legislature enhanced the penalties for those engaging in such conduct with new laws that went into effect Feb. 1, 2018, which included the creation of the first-degree crime for which Morales was indicted.
Prior changes to the statute included the use of the term “item depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child” in lieu of “child pornography.” This is the first case in Essex County where a defendant has been charged with this crime, according to Freier.
The investigation is active and ongoing. These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless or until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.