Essex County jury convicts man of sexually assaulting young girl

BELLEVILLE, NJ — An Essex County jury has convicted Jose Santana, 59, of Belleville, of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl, according to a Nov. 18 press release from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The assaults occurred while the girl was visiting Santana and his wife at their Belleville residence. In addition to sexually assaulting the victim, he forced her to watch child pornography. When officers executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home, they discovered child pornography on his computer.

Following a trial before Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin, the jury convicted Santana on all counts: three counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of sexual assault, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

“The victim, a brave little 9-year-old girl, found the courage and the strength to tell her mother, and the jury, how the defendant had violated her. The day she testified was the day she took back her dignity,” said Assistant Prosecutor Peter C. Polidoro, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez.

“The victim’s credibility was corroborated, in this case, when she stated that the defendant had made her watch child pornography and subsequently, after a search warrant was executed, a laptop that we tied to the defendant was found to contain child pornographic videos and pictures,” Gutierrez said.

The defendant is facing 25 years to life in New Jersey State Prison on each of the aggravated sexual assault counts when he is sentenced. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12.

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