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EHC Megan’s Law offender on trial in alleged sex assault

A convicted Megan’s Law offender is on trial in the alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old.
“Don’t tell anyone or I will get in trouble with the police,” Jose Rodriguez told the girl inside his Egg Harbor City home last year, Assistant Prosecutor Erika Halayko told jurors Thursday.
The girl later told her mother that “Don Jose touched me” and had paid her $10 to keep quiet.
But Rodriguez’s attorney told jurors that the girl’s statement to police was guided by her mother and law enforcement officers.
“What you are hearing is a story shaped by the worst imagination of a fearful mother,” Kate Weigel said in her opening statement. “Shaped by other family members who care for (the girl), shaped by the assumptions of a police officer who deals with crimes each and every day.”
Rodriguez, now 70, knew the girl’s family and had asked to take her shopping Aug. 20, 2019, since she had recently celebrated her 12th birthday.
But what the girl’s mother didn’t know was that Rodriguez was a registered sex offender who was not allowed to be alone with a child under Megan’s Law.
The jurors also have not been told of Rodriguez’s prior conviction in a 2002 case out of Hammonton involving criminal sexual contact with a victim that was older than 13 but younger than 16.
Rodriguez was sentenced to four years’ probation and did no prison time in that case. While he is a registered sex offender, he was not required to be listed on the public registry despite living blocks from the Charles Spragg Elementary School.
Rodriguez is now accused of taking the girl back to his home after their shopping trip to Walmart, asking if she wanted to help wash his dogs.
The girl would later tell investigators that Rodriguez had her change her shirt so she wouldn’t get her clothes dirty and tried to talk her into taking off her pants.
He then used a small handheld massager to touch the girl’s body and private areas, and then tried climbing on top of her, according to the events laid out by Halayko in her opening.
The girl was able to push him off and told Rodriguez she wanted to go home, the prosecutor said.
“As a last effort after using a massage device on her, after bending her over his bed, after touching her buttocks with his hands, after pushing her down on the bed and after climbing on top of her, the defendant asked her to change into clothing he purchased for her at Walmart,” Halayko said.
The girl told him no and he took her home, she said.
But when they got there, he gave her $10 and told her to promise not to tell anyone because he didn’t want to get in trouble, Halayko said.
The girl promised, but told her mother what happened later that night.
The trial will continue Friday before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.
The girl, whose name is being withheld due to her age and nature of the charges, is expected to testify at some point.

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