UPDATE (CVP EXCLUSIVE): The defense attorney in a former Mahwah minister’s underage sex trial said today he intends to call witnesses to discredit the alleged victim, who testified for several hours yesterday and today.
However, Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian warned Benjamin Morton that, in doing so, he would give Senior Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph the opportunity to present two key pieces of evidence that so far have been withheld from jurors.
One is that Franklin is serving time for sexually abusing the woman’s youngster sister, who also was underage, and the other is that the alleged victim in the trial filed an official complaint against Franklin after learning this.
Franklin is serving an eight-year prison sentence at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel and faces lifetime parole as a registered Megan’s Law offender if he eventually is released from state custody.
If Morton calls witnesses who will testify that the victim victim never told them about the alleged liaisons despite opportunities to do so — as he has suggested — Ralph said he’ll bring back witnesses who testified in a previous trial that she told them in 2003 and 2004.
(That prosecution ended in a mistrial. Franklin is now being retried in Superior Court in Hackensack.)
Morton refused to commit, so Jerejian gave him until noon Friday to notify both court and Ralph whether witnesses will be called, and who they will be.
The trial is in recess and will resume Tuesday morning.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter