Trenton teen pleads guilty to child endangerment in Rowan Towers rape case

Published: Friday, November 19, 2010, 2:00 AM
Lisa Coryell/The Times
TRENTON — The 15-year-old girl accused of selling her 7-year-old stepsister for sex at a party in Rowan Towers last spring has pleaded guilty to child endangerment and has been sentenced to a year in juvenile detention, prosecutors announced yesterday.

Charges of aggravated assault and promoting prostitution in connection with the alleged gang rape of the little girl have been dropped, prosecutors said.

“She pled guilty to physically endanger the welfare of a child, not the sexual component of the endangering charge,” said Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

The teen and six males — two of them adults — were charged with sexually assaulting the little girl at a party in a vacant apartment on March 28, 2010. The crime outraged city officials and local residents and attracted widespread media attention.

In a closed hearing in juvenile court on Wednesday, the teenager pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of endangering, DeBlasio said.

The teen has been held in a juvenile detention center since her arrest in March.

“The judge ordered her to truthfully testify and continue cooperating with the police in the prosecution of the co-defendants,” she said.

The males charged in the case range in age from 13 to 20 years old.

Gregory Leary, 20 of Jackson Street, and Timear Lewis, 19, of Division Street, the two adults, are free on bail and awaiting trial on charges of aggravated sexual assault and child endangering.

Earlier this week, Leary and Lewis were arraigned before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier. Lewis entered a plea of not guilty. Leary, who is no longer being represented by attorney Robin Lord, did not enter a plea because he did not have representation at the hearing, DeBlasio said.

The juveniles were offered plea deals in exchange for their testimony against the adults. Two of them are scheduled for juvenile court hearings at the end of the month.

According to police, the 15-year-old girl brought her stepsister to a party in the apartment building where several men and boys had gained illegal entry into a vacant unit. There, the teenager engaged in sex for money with some of the males and later sold her stepsister to them for sex, police said.

When the little girl returned home, police were already there because her parents had reported her and her stepsister as runaways.

From the outset, defense attorneys questioned the child’s report that she had been sexually assaulted. Lord said the child made up the story to avoid getting in trouble for running away. She pointed to the lack of DNA evidence in the case as proof.

Leary and Lewis were indicted last month.

In addition to charges connected with the alleged assault on the 7-year-old, Leary was also indicted on two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child in relation to the 15-year-old, with whom he allegedly had sex at the party. According to prosecutors, Leary told police he thought the girl was 18.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Downing, chief of the Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting the case.