Belleville man sentenced to 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting young girl

Jose Santana

BELLEVILLE, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor’s Theodore N. Stephens II announced Oct. 18 that Jose Santana, 60, of Belleville was sentenced to 35 years in New Jersey state prison by Superior Court Judge Martin Cronin for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.

On Nov. 15, 2019, Santana was convicted by an Essex County jury of 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. Sentencing was delayed because of the pandemic; Santana was incarcerated while awaiting sentencing.

On Friday, Oct. 15, Cronin sentenced Santana to 35 years in prison. Under the No Early Release Act, he must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he will be eligible for parole.

“Hopefully, this will give closure to the family and this little girl will be able to rest easy knowing her brave actions will prevent him from hurting her or anyone else in the future,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Peter C. Polidoro, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez.

The assaults occurred on multiple occasions while the little girl was visiting Santana and his wife at their Belleville residence.

In addition to sexually assaulting the victim, Santana forced her to watch child pornography while the sexual assaults occurred. When officers executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home, they discovered child pornography on his computer.

“I hope that this sentence of 35 years sends a clear message that sexual abuse of a child will not be tolerated and will be punished severely,” Gutierrez said.

Stephens lauded the ECPO’s Special Victims Unit and forensic investigation unit, Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center, and the Belleville Police Department for bringing this case to a successful conclusion.