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New Jersey Appeals Court Overturns Former Pastor’s Conviction on Two Sexual Assault Counts

A New Jersey state appeals court has overturned a former Camden pastor’s conviction on two counts of sexual assault of a minor after ruling that a confession used as evidence against him was improperly obtained.

A three-judge panel determined that when police told Luis A. Massa that “non-forced sexual contact with a 16-year-old was not criminal,” it gave him “false assurances about (his) potential criminal liability” and led him to confess to criminal sexual contact with a teen, the Courier Post reported. 

The case involved sexual contact that began when the victim was 13 and Massa was 32, and continued for three years in his home, the church office, and a church van. The Post did not say what church Massa had pastored, just that it was a “small congregation.”

Massa acknowledged sending inappropriate text messages to the girl when she was under the age of 16 but denied having sex with her until police suggested the victim could lawfully consent at age 16. He then said he had had sex with her but that she had initiated it. 

In the ruling, the judges said, “By convincing the suspect what he or she did was not wrong at all, the misstatement of law directly targets and neutralizes a person’s natural reluctance to admit wrongdoing.” 

Massa was convicted of multiple charges of criminal sexual contact after two trials, the first resulting in a 17-year prison term and the second an additional 35 years. The other counts were upheld by the appeals court.

The jury in the second trial did not hear the confession. 

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.