YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack today sentenced a 41-year-old former city firefighter to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl, saying that he was troubled by the convicted public servant’s lack of remorse.
Superior Court Judge James Guida also barred David Fernandez from public employment but took no action regarding his pension, which he said is out of his authority.
The sentence followed emotional statements by the victim’s angry and tearful mother, who called Fernandez “the worst kind of monster — one who seems trustworthy.”
“You raped my child,” she said to him. “What you took from her, she will never get back. You stole her innocence, you made her doubt herself. You destroyed my baby in so many ways. She will serve a sentence longer than yours.
“She will never be able to recover from what has happened to her.”
A family friend who had been a positive adult male figure in her life told Guida that the girl had to be home-schooled during the three-week trial and afterward.
“She now lives with the thought that she, the victim, is at fault for the choices David made,” the friend said, his voice breaking. “She has trouble in school because she feels other students know what happened to her, and judge her for it.”
When his turn came, Fernandez continued to insist that he was wrongly tried and convicted.
Looking markedly different from his May trial, he told the judge: “I am not guilty of this crime.
“I have lost the greatest job in the world, that I will never get back,” Fernandez said. “I have lost my position in the community, that I will never get back.
“I will be marked as a child predator for the rest of my life.”
Defense attorney Angela Rodriguez requested a minimum five-year sentence based on Fernandez’s “record of public service” as a firefighter and lack of any prior criminal record.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco of the Special Victims Unit countered that Fernandez’ crimes required a longer sentence.
“Each and every act he committed is a separate crime under the law,” DeMarco said. “The victim here will most likely have emotional and mental harm for the rest of her years.
“She has suffered and will continue to suffer, it’s quite serious,” the prosecutor continued. “She said she was disgusted with herself for allowing this to happen.
“He is not taking responsibility for his actions.”
Guida criticized Fernandez for not showing any remorse.
“I also am extremely troubled by the statement that the complaining witness was a willing participant, implying this was somehow a consensual act,” the judge said. “Certainly a child can never be a willing participant in that context.”
Guida also recalled a key piece of evidence in the trial, a telephone call the girl’s mother recorded without Fernandez’ knowledge. In the call, he admits sexually assaulting her daughter, and says: “I hate myself.”
“It appeared to me he was extremely remorseful on the telephone, and took responsibility for his actions,” the judge said.
“Certainly he has the right to craft his defense in the way he chooses, and he has a right to a trial. But he lacks any remorse today,” he added. “I find that troubling, having heard his emotion and the statements he made to the victim’s mother shortly after this occurred.”
Guida sentenced Fernandez to six years in state prison for sexual assault via oral sex, six years for penile-vaginal penetration (rape), and 18 months for sexual contact by touching the girl’s breasts, all to be served concurrently.
In addition, he sentenced him to an additional four years impairing the morals of a child.
Fernandez also must register as a sex offender and remain on lifetime parole. He sentences are not subject to the No Early Release Act, but as a sex offender his sentence can be lengthened if he’s found to be an ongoing danger to the community.
Fernandez, who joined the Hackensack department three years ago, was suspended without pay after his arrest and fired following the guilty verdict.