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Leonia Sex Assault Defendant Insists Girl, 16, Seduced Him

Wilfredo Arias in court today. Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Natalie Candela Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Defense attorney Frank Lucianna, Wilfredo Arias Photo Credit: Mary Miraglia

LEONIA, N.J. -- A judge in Hackensack yesterday rejected the guilty plea of a Leonia construction worker to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while giving her a ride in his truck last summer after he insisted she came on to him.

Wilfredo Arias, 49, said he thought the teen "was attracted to me" based on how “she rubbed up against me during the day.”

An exasperated Superior Court Judge James J. Guida refused his guilty pleas to one count each of sexual assault of a minor and child endangerment.

“We pick a jury [Wednesday] morning,” he said.

Defense attorney Frank Lucianna tried to delay, but Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Natalie Candela said she'd provided all the necessary materials and was ready to proceed.

Candela agreed to a deal that would have sent Arias to state prison for six years -- five years and two months of which he would have had to serve before being eligible for parole. A year of that was for being arrested while on probation for a sex crime.

The deal also required Megan’s Law sex offender registration, a Nicole’s Law permanent ban on contact with the girl or her family and lifetime parole supervision.

The plan fell through after Arias told the judge that he was outside the house on July 3, 2014 when the girl emerged from a party given by his step-daughter and he offered her a ride home.

In the truck, he said, he first put her hand on his penis and then lifted up her dress. He later said he touched her private parts and she jumped out.

He said he went after her, put his arms around the girl, and rubbed up against her on the front porch of his house before she ran home.

If convicted of all charges, Arias could face up to 15 years in prison. He remains free on $250,000 bail.

This is Arias’ third sex offense prosecution in 15 years. One of them set a standard for how NJ jurors are chosen ( SEE: Leonia man's sex assault case prompts changes in jury selection ).

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