CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. -- A judge in Hackensack said she will hold a special hearing to determine whether a decade-old rape case was tainted by a mugshot on CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Authorities arrested Jose Augusto Masmela-Sarmiento was arrested on child sex abuse charges in March, 2012 after a local pediatrician contacted the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) to report that a girl had been touched inappropriately.
A story about the arrest was published, along with a mugshot, on the online news site.
A woman who saw the CLIFFVIEW PILOT story then contacted police and said he was the same man who sexually assaulted her in Cliffside Park while she was a teenager in May 2001.
Superior Judge Margaret M. Foti said in court on Nov. 6 that the identification appeared to be made "under highly suggestive circumstances."
“The article was about sexual assault and the photo reportedly showed him in prison garb,” the judge said.“It’s him,” the woman told a confidant, recounting the May night when she was thrown to the ground and attacked by a man who police never caught, sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
As a result, Foti said, she is required to have a hearing to decide whether authorities were warranted in using the identification to charge Masmela-Sarmiento.
She told Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice and defense attorney S. Emile Lisboa to return to court on Nov. 16 to schedule the hearing.
Maurice said that the likelihood of the witness identifying the wrong man "after all the thousands of faces she has seen in 10 years, and she never before said ‘that’s him'," was very unlikely.
The judge also must consider how to accommodate what is a profound speech impediment for Masmela-Sarmiento before he goes to trial. The Colombian native speaks only Spanish and needs interpreters. However, he can understand them but they don’t understand him.
Masmela-Sarmiento will be evaluated by a speech specialist, and a recommendation will be made how to proceed. The judge set a Dec. 2 hearing on that isse.
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