TRENTON – Former New Jersey Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen was indicted Wednesday on official misconduct and child pornography charges for allegedly using computer equipment in the 20th Legislative District office to view child pornography and print copies of child pornography that he left around the office, Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced.
The Division of Criminal Justice obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Cohen, 57, of Paramus, with the second-degree crimes of official misconduct, reproduction of child pornography, and distribution of child pornography, as well as the fourth-degree crime of possession of child pornography.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine, while fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The official misconduct charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without possibility of parole.
“We charge that Mr. Cohen used the computer equipment in his taxpayer-funded legislative office to view child pornography, printing out copies which were accessible to others in the office,” said Milgram. “In doing so, he abused his office and, like all who seek out child pornography, he supported the suppliers who exploit and sexually abuse children. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our child pornography laws as part of our broader efforts to combat predatory behavior against children.”
The indictment alleges that Cohen used one or more computers in the 20th Legislative District office in Union Township to view child pornography consisting of photographs of underage girls engaged in sexual acts or simulated sexual acts, or depicted in the nude for the purpose of sexual gratification of viewers. It is further alleged that Cohen used a printer in the office to reproduce copies of the child pornography, which he left around the office where anyone in the office could find and view them.
In July, 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 was viewing and printing the child pornography.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Mercer County, where Cohen will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges.
Cohen served more than 16 years in the New Jersey Assembly. He resigned from the Assembly on July 28 after the investigation became public.
From left to right: Gov. Jon Corzine, Assemblyman Joseph Vas and former Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen attended a news conference together earlier this year. Cohen was indicted on child pornography charges while Vas is the target of a criminal probe in Perth Amboy, where federal agents have seized records from City Hall. Although the state faces a $1.4 billion budget gap, rising unemployment and unabashed corruption, Corzine has been planning his re-election campaign.
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