More than two years after his imprisonment, Bart McInerney was released from South Wood State Prison this month with a second chance. The former St. Rose High School baseball coach had been accused and convicted of sexual misconduct with his players, and was sentenced to an 18-year prison term. But all that changed when the state appeals court released McInerney on his own recognizance and ordered a new trial.
New Jersey criminal attorneys say the appellate panel struck down McInerney’s previous conviction because Superior Court judge Anthony Mellaci Jr. mishandled the jury instruction during McInerney’s 2010 trial, where he was found guilty of 10 counts of second-degree child endangerment. Second-degree endangerment, however, is reserved for abuse or neglect at the hands of a parent or guardian. McInerney, as a baseball coach, was a parental figure, but could not be classified as a guardian, the appellate panel said. Instead, McInerney should have been tried under charges of third-degree endangerment, which does not always involve jail time.
While New Jersey criminal attorneys decide whether to retry McInerney as the appellate panel suggested, or to appeal the court’s decision, McInerney will be able to spend time at home, or with family, without the threat of an 18-year sentence hanging over his head. This case draws attention to the importance of retaining an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer during trial. Mistakes can be made, and the vast difference in consequences between second-degree and third-degree endangerment charges could have affected the rest of McInerney’s life.
A second-degree child endangerment crime in New Jersey carries a maximum of 10 years in state prison per criminal charge, and fines of up to $150,000. Some offenders may also have to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Those charged with second-degree endangerment usually have some sort of legal responsibility for the victim – a parent, family member, or parental guardian. If charged with third-degree endangerment, McInerney could face up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines, but he will be tried as a baseball coach and not as a parent responsible for the moral well-being of a child, which changes the stakes considerably.
The New Jersey criminal attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman have the experience to fight for your right to a fair trial. If you are facing criminal charges, or you feel you have been charged unfairly, contact our experienced New Jersey criminal attorneys today for a free consultation.