Detective’s Testimony Gets New Trial for Convicted Child-molesting NJ Skating Rink Owner
FRANKLIN (Gloucester) — A man sentenced to six years in prison for sex crimes involving a minor will get a new trial because of a detective's testimony on the stand, an appeals court has ruled.
Jon Carlo, the owner of the former Franklin Skating Center, was convicted in 2019 on several charges including sexually assaulting a victim under 13 years old and showing pornography to a child. An 11-year-old girl was the only accuser, though authorities said they believed there were other victims.
At Carlo's trial, prosecutors presented a video of Carlo and the victim, both clothed, in his office. The victim was practicing a handstand with her legs split apart at Carlo's instruction.
Detective Warren Rivell, with the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, testified that the video showed their clothed genital areas making contact. Rivell also said on the stand that the video was likely recorded by Carlo with his cell phone without the victim's knowledge.
At the time, Carlo's defense counsel did not object to Rivell's testimony and the judge allowed it. However, Tuesday's ruling found it improper for the detective to give "opinion testimony" on what appeared in the video.
"It was for the jury to evaluate the evidence because there was nothing complex or beyond its understanding," the appellate panel said.
Tuesday's ruling overturned all of the charges against Carlo and called for a new trial for most of them. As the exception, it completely acquitted Carlo on a charge of third-degree invasion of privacy by photographing or recording intimate parts of another without consent.
The handstand video was one of several that investigators found on Carlo's phone and computer of girls performing gymnastics. The appeals court found that his videos were not illegal because he was not a peeping Tom and did not film "intimate body parts."
"We appreciate the State's concern that some of the images portrayed the upper legs
and thighs of girls wearing short shorts and closeups of their clothed intimate parts. We further appreciate the State's concerns about the immoral purpose that defendant may have planned to use these images."
Since his sentencing in July 2019, Carlo has been an inmate at South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County. A new trial means he has another chance at freedom before his release date on March 6, 2024.
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