Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Deal in Bathroom Spying Case

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Deal in Bathroom Spying Case

Article excerpt

Mitchell Morreale, the former Lyndhurst fire captain and youth football coach who is accused of videotaping teenagers as they used the bathroom during a pool party at his home, accepted a plea bargain on Thursday that is likely to keep him out of prison when he is sentenced in May.

Appearing in Superior Court in Paterson after a change of venue, Morreale pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree invasion of privacy. In exchange, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office agreed to drop the more serious charge of third-degree invasion of privacy - - an offense that carries a sentence of three to five years in prison -- and will seek probation when Morreale returns for sentencing on May 6.

As part of the plea agreement, he has agreed to have no contact with the victims.

According to New Jersey statutes, a third-degree offense involves photographing, videotaping or recording "another person whose intimate parts are exposed" without the person's consent. The fourth- degree violation entails simply observing a person in such a situation.

Although Morreale agreed to undergo "sex offender-specific counseling" as a condition for probation, according to court documents, his attorney, John F. Chiaia, said his motive for hiding a video camera in a bathroom closet was to prevent illegal activity.

"He had an intent to observe because he suspected there was illegal drug use," Chiaia said. Asked why Morreale suspected drug use, Chiaia responded "odor."

He would not elaborate.

Nicole L. Eiszner, the assistant Bergen County prosecutor who handled the case, did not respond to repeated calls for comment on Thursday. Morreale's motive for the videotaping wasn't mentioned during the brief hearing before Judge Miguel de la Carrera.

Speaking in hushed tones, Morreale answered a simple "Yes, your honor" when de la Carrera asked him if he understood he was giving up his right to a jury trial. With his guilty plea, the case will not be presented to a grand jury, which means his alleged victims will not have to testify.

Morreale, a 45-year-old volunteer firefighter who coached boys' football in the township recreation league, hosted the pool party for his son at his Livingston Avenue home on June 12. …

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