A sex crime conviction in New Jersey can have devastating consequences. Many times, these consequences include a lengthy prison sentence that carries a mandatory minimum term of incarceration. Beyond that, in almost every instance, a person convicted of a serious sex crime such as sexual assault or child molestation will also be subject to sex offender registration requirements under Megan’s Law.
One person who may now be realizing just how strict NJ law is when it comes to mandatory prison sentences for sexual assault convictions is John Hilkevich. Hilkevich is a 62-year-old man who was previously convicted of sexually assaulting underage boys in Woodland Township, NJ. He was initially arrested in 1998 after local law enforcement conducted an exhaustive investigation into molestation allegations brought forth by multiple children. The victims came forward to claim that Hilkevich had taken them to his house in Woodland Township, where he sexually assaulted them.
At the time of his arrest, Hilkevich was employed as a science teacher at Dunn Middle School in Trenton, New Jersey. He also worked for a Mercer County advocacy program, which gave him access to troubled youths. It was these children whom Hilkevich allegedly raped. In addition to sexually assaulting the victims at his Woodland NJ residence, Hilkevich also reportedly abused the victims during field trips to different parts of Mercer County and Burlington County.
Appealing a Sex Crime Conviction in New Jersey
In 2000, a criminal trial in Burlington County Superior Court ended with the jury convicting Hilkevich of aggravated sexual assault. However, the conviction was overturned a few years later after an appellate court determined that the trial judge erred in failing to allow an expert witness to testify on Hilkevich’s behalf.
The truth is that winning an appeal of a criminal conviction in New Jersey is extremely difficult because appellate courts are reluctant to step on the toes of trial judges. However, when a clear error has occurred and that error was substantial enough to affect the jury’s decision, it may be possible to win an appeal and get the original conviction overturned.
In this case, Burlington County prosecutors responded to the overturned conviction by retrying the case. Once again, Hilkevich was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 15 years in New Jersey State Prison. Additionally, the judge imposed a 10-year period of parole ineligibility.
Severe Penalties for Sexual Assault in Burlington County, NJ
The fact that Hilkveich was in a position of authority over the victims may have factored into the judge’s harsh sentence. According to Burlington County prosecutors, Hilkevich took advantage of children who were already dealing with difficult home lives.
Hilkevich was denied parole in 2014 because of the parole ineligibility that was imposed by the trial court judge. This prompted an appeal by Hilkevich, who argued that the parole board made several errors in rejecting his bid for early release.
A New Jersey appeals panel ultimately upheld the parole board’s decision and said that there was no merit in the appeal. The panel went further and noted that there was a “substantial likelihood” that Hilkevich would become a repeat offender if he was released from prison too early because he had shown no remorse for his crimes.
Now that the prison sentence has been upheld and Hilkevich’s bid for parole has been denied, he will likely remain behind bars for several more years. The earliest possible date of parole for Hilkevich is the beginning of 2021.
If you have been arrested and charged with sexual assault, child endangerment, or any other sex crime in New Jersey, you need an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Firm of Stephen R. Piper now to schedule a free consultation about your case.