With a series of simple “yes” answers, Adam Melzer of Teaneck pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges involving nude pictures of young boys taken while Melzer was a youth program supervisor and basketball coach at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge.
Melzer agreed to a plea deal, which enables him to avoid prison but requires life-time parole supervision and for him to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.
After Superior Court Judge Lois Lipton read the details of the plea deal Wednesday at the courthouse in Hackensack, her question was succinct: “How do you plead?” And Melzer responded quietly: “Guilty.”
“Are you pleading guilty because you really are guilty?” she asked. “Yes,” he responded. By pleading guilty, Melzer waived his right to a grand jury hearing and, if indicted, a trial.
Actual sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 28 after an evaluation at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center for sex offenders at East Jersey State Prison in Avenel.
|Adam Melzer Bergen County Police|
The 34-year-old Melzer was arrested July 21, 2008, in the incident involving four boys, then 14 to 16, who were volunteer referees at the school after their graduation. According to the accusation, Melzer persuaded the boys, in separate pairs, to supply nude photos of themselves on a digital camera that he provided.
He claimed that a ring of blackmailers had nude photos of the boys and their families taken with a telephoto lens, and that they would surrender the photos if the boys would supply the photos of themselves.
The scheme was broken when one group of boys overheard the other talking about it.
The incidents took place in 2006 to 2007. Melzer, who in answer to a question said he is a law school graduate, has been free on $50,000 bail.
Lipton, in reading the questions, acknowledged that the list was extensive and repeatedly asked Melzer if he understood. He said he did. The judge said the plea arrangement had been meticulously worked out by the defense and prosecution.
The actual charges are third-degree child endangerment, carrying a possible sentence of five years, Lipton told the defendant. Under the plea arrangement, the sentence would be three years, and – providing Melzer meets the stipulations – would be suspended.
The Avenel session, she said, is to determine if the crimes were “compulsive and repetitive.” If such crimes are deemed “compulsive and repetitive,” violators must confirm their addresses every 90 days, and all others must do so every year.
If he violates his parole, Melzer would face prison time.
As a violator under Megan’s Law, Melzer must notify law enforcement agencies of his address, and keep them updated on any moves. His date of birth, address, and details about his car will be public knowledge and may be found on the Internet.
As part of the proceeding, Melzer had to acknowledge details of the incidents as read by one of his lawyers, Tim Donohue of West Orange. He was also represented by Benjamin Braford of New York. The state was represented by Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph.
Megan’s Law refers to state laws requiring that addresses and other details about convicted sex offenders be available to the public, and posted on the Internet, to alert neighbors. The laws are named for Megan Kanka, 7, who was kidnapped and murdered on July 29, 1994, by Jesse Timmendequas in West Windsor.
Timmendequas had been freed on an earlier sex conviction, and Megan’s mother, Maureen, said if she had known of the situation, she would have warned her daughter to stay away from his home. Timmendequas is now in prison for life.
Maureen Kanka then spearheaded a drive to adopt the laws, informally named for her daughter.
After the hearing, Melzer’s attorneys issued a statement on his behalf:
“Today’s disposition, that allows for a suspended sentence, is truly in the best interests of all parties. A long, difficult trial would have subjected all parties to a terrifying and humiliating ordeal.
“Adam Melzer is a fundamentally decent young man from an extraordinary family. He clearly has some personal issues to deal with, but the appropriate remedy is treatment , not incarceration.
“We are hopeful that Adam’s community will ultimately extend the same compassion and understanding towards Adam that the prosecution and the court already have.”