By: Richard L. Smith
Union County authorities charged a West New York man with sexually assaulting a woman in a Newark Airport parking garage in Elizabeth on Thursday, January 19, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Port Authority Chief Security Officer Greg Ehrie jointly announced today.
Officials said Mr. Thomassal Watkins, 40, is charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, third-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in the attack on the victim.
Port Authority Police Department officers responded to the Conrac Parking Garage -- connected to Newark Airport’s Terminal A -- shortly after 9 p.m. this past Thursday after a woman reported being sexually assaulted minutes earlier by an unknown male as she was walking to her car, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case.
The responding officers were able to locate and apprehend the subject on airport property quickly.
An exhaustive investigation jointly led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the Port Authority Police Department, with the assistance of the Union County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene unit, resulted in the identification of Watkins as the suspect and collection of significantevidence.
“We are grateful for the extraordinary collaboration with our local law enforcement partners and for the exemplary police work of the Port Authority Police Department, which led to the identification and apprehension of Watkins within minutes of the attack”, Prosecutor Daniel said.
"We appreciate the swift response from our partners at the Union County Prosecutor's and Sheriff's Offices, and commend our Port Authority police officers for the exceptional work that led to the apprehension of the suspect," added Port Authority Police Superintendent Ed Cetnar.
Watkins is currently being held in the Essex County Jail pending a pretrial detention hearing on Friday, January 27th in Union County Superior Court.
Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Claudia Diez at 908-965-3779 or Port Authority Police Department Detective Amos Shand at 973-961-6308.
Convictions for crimes of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to twenty years in state prison.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.