April 12, 2010
Former Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen Pleads Guilty
to Distributing Child Pornography
TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that former New Jersey Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen pleaded guilty today to a charge of distributing child pornography, admitting that he used computer equipment in the 20th Legislative District office to view, print and distribute images of child pornography.
According to Director Taylor, Cohen, 59, of Paramus, pleaded guilty to second-degree endangering the welfare of a child (distribution of child pornography), a charge contained in an indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Cohen pleaded guilty this morning before Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Council in Mercer County.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Cohen be sentenced to five years in state prison. In addition, he will be permanently barred from any public employment or elected office, and he will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.
“Mr. Cohen, through his actions in viewing and distributing child pornography, linked himself to an abhorrent industry that preys on children,” said Attorney General Dow. “Every single person who willingly enters the criminal network of suppliers and users of child pornography becomes part of the tragic exploitation and abuse of the innocent victims.”
In pleading guilty in court, Cohen admitted that he viewed images of child pornography on a computer in the 20th Legislative District Office in Union Township and printed copies of images of child pornography that he placed in the desk of a female receptionist in the office.
“Not only did Mr. Cohen access, print and distribute child pornography, he did it in his legislative office using equipment paid for by state taxpayers,” said Director Taylor. “He not only betrayed any standard of decency, he betrayed the people of the State of New Jersey.”
The guilty plea was taken for the Division of Criminal Justice by Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Deputy Chief of the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Christine Hoffman, Chief of the Corruption Bureau.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. Judge Council scheduled sentencing for July 12.
In July 2008, the New Jersey State Police were notified of child pornography found in the 20th Legislative District office. The State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice immediately commenced an investigation.
Detectives from the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice executed a search warrant to seize the hard drives from the computers in the legislative office. A review of the hard drives yielded multiple images of child pornography. The investigation revealed that Cohen was the individual who viewed and printed child pornography. Cohen was first indicted by a state grand jury on Dec. 17, 2008. That indictment was superseded by a second indictment on July 9, 2009.
Cohen served more than 16 years in the New Jersey Assembly. He resigned from the Assembly on July 28, 2008 after the investigation became public.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice by Sgt. David Salzmann, Detective Michael Behar, Sgt. Warren Monroe, Detective Harry Maronpot, and Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione in the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Sharpe in the Computer Analysis and Technology Unit.
The investigation was conducted for the State Police by Detective Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Hoar, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Celli III, Detective Sgt. Karl Ulbrich, Detective Deniele DeBoer and Detective Anthony Carugno of the Official Corruption Unit; Sgt. Charles Allen, Detective Gregory Godish and Lt. Keith Halton of the Digital Technology Investigations Unit; and Detective Denman Powers of the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.
If you suspect that someone is using or distributing child pornography on the Internet or suspect improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the Internet contact the Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit Tip Line at 1-800-396-2310 or report it at www.njdcj.org.