EXCLUSIVE: Former Emmy-winning Fox 5 investigative reporter Charles Leaf has done paralegal work the past few years while awaiting the start of his child sex-abuse trial in Hackensack.
“I’ve always been interested in the law, and actually considered going to law school before I went into TV news,” Leaf told CLIFFVIEW PILOT on Thursday, as both sides cleared some final legal hurdles.
“The work can be challenging,” Leaf said, “although there are also long periods of sitting in court on hard benches, waiting for the legal process to unfold.”
Leaf has appeared stressed yet composed while waiting for defense lawyers and prosecutors to hash out what will and won’t be presented to jurors. Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.
As first reported here, Leaf was taken into custody at his then-Wyckoff home in October 2010 by members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit and the Wyckoff Police Department.
After being interviewed by detectives at the prosecutor’s office in Paramus, he was charged with aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment. He also will be tried on charges of attempting to intimidate a witness, possessing child pornography and destroying evidence by allegedly deleting it from his computer.
Leaf, who turns 44 this month, spent seven weeks in jail before making $270,000 bail.
In September, he rejected a plea offer from prosecutors that would have sent him to prison for 7-8 years.
Two years ago, Leaf’s wife went on TV and said that he was set up by the family nanny, who is scheduled to testify in the trial.
Leaf has covered several major stories for Fox 5, including national exclusives on the Bernard Madoff scandal and the proposed development of a mosque near the World Trade Center site.
He has also been on FOX News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” “The FOX Report,” “FOX & Friends,” “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” “America Live with Megyn Kelly” and “Geraldo at Large.”
Leaf talked a bit yesterday about news, including the differences between TV and online reporting.
Television is at a huge disadvantage, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT, because reporters don’t get to develop a beat — leading to a lack of familiarity and sources. The only reason he was able to develop the Madoff story, he said, was because he told his producers that giving him time was the only way to get it — which they did.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter