Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, announced today that an Essex County Grand Jury has returned an indictment charging Mr. Jose Morales, 33, of Irvington, with first degree endangering the welfare of a child for possessing more than 100,000 items of Explicit Images of Minors.
The police arraigned Morales yesterday on the charges before Judge Alfonse J. Cifelli, Judge of the Superior Court.
Police say they arrested Morales on Nov. 1, 2018, following the execution of a search warrant at his home in Irvington.
Members of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office (ECPO) Special Victims Unit and the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force conducted the search.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Freier, who is handling the case, the investigation was initiated when Morales uploaded the material to an online account. Upon becoming aware of the nature of the images and videos uploaded to Morales' account, the online provider notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and a referral was submitted to the ECPO.
The ECPO is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce. Members of the taskforce are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of individuals who create, share and possess images and videos depicting children engaged in and subjected to acts including acts of penetration and contact upon prepubescent children.
When police arrested Morales, they charged him with possessing at least 1,000, but less than 100,000 items depicting the explicit images of Minors but the subsequent forensic examination of storage media seized from his home revealed that he possessed more than 100,000 files depicting such abuse, Assistant Prosecutor Freier said.
The New Jersey Legislature enhanced the penalties for those engaging in such conduct with new laws that went into effect on Feb. 1, 2018, which included the creation of the first-degree crime for which Morales was indicted.
Prior changes to the statute included the use of the term "item depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child" instead of "child pornography." Morales's case is the first case in Essex County where a defendant has been charged with this crime, according to Assistant Prosecutor Freier.
The investigation is active and ongoing.
These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Assistant Prosecutor Freier commended Det. Thomas Chung for his outstanding work on this case.