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Wayne Man Sexually Assaulted 13-Year-Old Boy, Prosecutor Says

James Perna, 53, accused of sexual contact with boy who worked at his health food store in Totowa.

A Wayne man was charged with aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child for alleged sexual contact with a 13-year-old boy in 2000, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes and Sheriff Richard Berdnik announced Wednesday.

The now-26-year-old victim told authorities that James Perna, 53, committed sexual acts on him throughout a period of eight weeks from June to August 2000 while he was employed at Perna’s health food store in Totowa, authorities said. The sex acts sometimes occurred in the store, authorities said.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement: “Although Perna’s arrest was based upon the complaint of a single victim, the evidence suggests that there may be additional victims who are reluctant to come forward.”

Perna was employed as a Special Deputy Sheriff and was a provisional security guard in the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson. Perna was arrested on Wednesday.

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit conducted the investigation with assistance from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.

Superior Court Judge Greta Good Brown has set Perna’s bail at $300,000. Perna is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, Feb. 19.

If convicted, Perna could serve a maximum term of 30 years, 20 for aggravated sexual assault and 10 for endangering the welfare of a child.

Anyone with information about the investigation should contact Detective Lt. Steve Batte at 862-236-0436.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

maryanne February 14, 2013 at 01:44 PM
His health food store is almost next store to a kids martial arts studio in Totowa.
angelina February 14, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Don't believe everything you hear. Jimmy has been a close friend for many, many years. He has been around my family, my children, for over 15 years. What I find disgusting is people judging him before he's even had a chance to speak. And he's not "smiling" in his mug shot. That's his ID photo from his job as a sheriff's officer. Let's show some support for someone who is fighting an uphill battle because someone, 13 years after the fact, decides he hasn't had enough love in his life and is seeking attention in the worst way possible
angelina February 14, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Please don't believe everything you hear. Jimmy has been a good friend to my family for over 15 years. Don't be so judgemental. He's not a "sicko" and he's not "disgusting". The reason he's smiling is because that's his job ID card, not a mug shot. Make sure you know what you're talking about before you comment. Someone's life is at stake.
angelina February 14, 2013 at 04:47 PM
I'm hoping my previous comment gets printed. It's rather annoying that you only put negative comments on here, not the ones showing support for someone who hasn't had a chance to speak in his own defense.
angelina February 14, 2013 at 04:52 PM
"prosecutor says". so we should believe it????
angelina February 14, 2013 at 06:00 PM
the health food store hasn't existed for years.....
Jack Q February 14, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Unfortunately, jumping to a guilty plea is human nature. If you remember a few years back, there was an administrator in Wayne accused of inapproprite contact with a minor in the back of a van on the way back from a sporting event. People ran him out of town and he was proven not guilty. I hope for this guy's sake, it's the same thing
maryanne February 14, 2013 at 07:27 PM
I hope for everyone involved that your friend is innocent. You are a good friend.
eyes wide shut February 14, 2013 at 10:08 PM
I agree, but isn't kinda late for the victim to come forward NOW????
Justice February 14, 2013 at 11:34 PM
I remember that incident. I hope that the man has been able to salvage his life.
Jack Q February 15, 2013 at 03:58 PM
If you are referring to my comment, h stayed employed by the district and was a last minute replacement as principal at Schuyler. Again, parents went ballistic because of the last minute nature. Stayed for a year and moved on. Don't know about the family situation. At the time of the incident, I believe he was going through a divorce.
Dtrain February 15, 2013 at 06:09 PM
He was arrested because of what someone said happened 13 years ago. Come on. I would love to see or hear the evidence they have that suggests more victims. Again he was arrested cause of what someone said. Is that it. That's all they have. So other victims is hearsay also. All a bunch of crap. When he is proven innocent they should prosecute the accuser to the fullest existent of the law.
Sam Pereli February 16, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Want to know who i feel bad for? I feel bad for you. It must be terrible to go through life as someone as ignorant and stupid as you. There is no evidence that this accusation is actually true, only based on a 26 year old word, which is probably just a lie. What takes someone 13 years to come out and admit to something like this? Maybe you should wait for some information to come out before you pass judgment on him.
Maria Turdo February 16, 2013 at 12:52 AM
We have known Jim for 30 years. Don't be so eager to judge a man unless there is sufficient evidence. He has been around my children and family numorous times. He is a very well respected father, husband and friend. Let us all be fair and wait until sufficient reliable proof is presented. In America: Innocent until proven Guilty!!
Mark February 16, 2013 at 02:39 PM
You are talking about a teeager who was probably scared to come forward. If you ever read, you would know that alot of sexual abuse victims can take years before they are able to admit what happened and come forward. He was a teen ager at the time and I for 1 feel there is no lenght of time too long if the evidence is there. Police would not arrest someone on little or no evidence after 13 years as you said. You do not know what evidence there is so you should also not be so quick to judge. Where there is smoke, there is fire...............
Mark February 16, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Once agian, we will wait for the evidence but you can never really know what is in a person's heart.
Mark February 16, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Yes!!!! They will not arrest someone or make a ststement based on their feelings, like you are.
Moira February 16, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Sam -- Why is your first thought that this is probably a lie? Do you know many people who lie about being sexually abused ten + years ago? I don't. Maybe people who were sexually abused in their youth don't tell people because of intimidation and/or shame. Maybe they need to get past it to be open about it. But I won't call you "ignorant and stupid" Only those with nothing constructive to say resort to name-calling like that.
angelina February 17, 2013 at 05:59 PM
mark, do you know there is NO EVIDENCE required for a sexual abuse arrest? so, in other words, this could happen to you, too.
Sam Pereli February 18, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Moira, I would like to believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and I haven't seen much evidence so far to prove James guilty. That's because there is no evidence ... I would like to believe the word of a 53 year old man with a family then a 26 year old who randomly came out with this accusation. The reason I am calling people ignorant is for the reason that everyone is being so quick to judge. They have no information about the case, yet there opinion is already been made.
Jorgey February 18, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Its sad & frightens me to see how people still think This is how politicians get away w.their nonsense. We "believe" 2fast. We no jails are full of innocent,wrongly accused people And its not necessarily a "lie" on the childs part,there was a (Discovery channel?)special recently about "memory"; had a test group of people witness a (staged) crime & within minutes the group swore 1-man committed the crime, almost all were wrong about what they saw Some swore the womans coat was red,it was white! (A passerby wore a red coat).Its possible "something" happened & the 13yr olds memorys distorted.Thank God some who commented here arent on this mans case/jury! We jump 2conclusions If he were your husband,father,friend imagine if hes innocent..his life was forever changed& that of his family too.Sex offenders should get death penalty vs. out 2b"repeat offenders" I thought his mug shot smile was for the public 2C him in a different light. But you see? Some if you were wrong & judged him on that wrong info,it wasnt a mugshot Be careful..peoples lives are @stake & your words can hurt/have an affect
Jorgey February 18, 2013 at 03:30 PM
....And I dont know this man or the accuser its just that I have the ability to think without blinders on. Many people(myself included) either have been or no some1 whos been molested and/or falsely accused/arrested... we tend let our emotion affect our opinion. If U had some1 close 2U molested? Ur comments will likely reflect "mans guilty why would child lie" & vice versa. Its not ez to keep an open mind,especially as (or if) the evidence starts building up.
Jorgey February 18, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Like my Dad, many immediately had Michael Jackson "guilty" When I asked my Dad how he figured,i said perhapsthe boys Mom had him lie (as she tried w.2 other celebritys; I believe 1-was Jay Leno who tried 2warn MJ)My Dads reply ( I have 2believe reflects the same reason most believed MJ was guilty) stunned me "Well LOOK at him" ! I said his looks & (seemingly 2us) his odd bhavior was a result of his upbringing...but more imptly, how can we judge based on looks,then what about Priests? Sad fact is many who feel &commented "if this man wasnt guilty Y was he arrested" Those same people who already hav their minds made up (NOT based on facts but on personal emotions) wont believe even when found "not guilty" in court! Then its "he got away with it" Sad fact people lack true conviction, flip flop. Most molesters dont stop @1 or even 2victims..MJ wouldve had them lining up around the block if he were guilty
Peter C. February 21, 2013 at 12:44 AM
How is it that the Press protects the privacy of a 26 year old who can make an accusation which can potentially destroy a man and his family's life?? The Press also implies that there are other "phantom" victims who have not come forward. This is an assination by the Press, shame on you!!
Daniel Hubbard (Editor) February 21, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Peter, The information in the article was provided by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office. The information is privileged and released at the discretion of local law enforcement officials. We, the Press as you say, are not hiding anything. We report what we know.
Dominique April 30, 2013 at 08:33 PM
You people that are saying this kid is to late for coming out now if your were a victim you would understand and no the family isn't a victim this piece of shit did it to himself he's disgusting he's a law enforcement officer raping a little boy and I'm sure there's more victims that are scared to come forward and wanna bury the past and forget you people are dumb for these comments your writing
Dominique April 30, 2013 at 08:36 PM
a kid now a man now wouldn't lie about this he isn't gainin anything from this it was eating him alive probably and for the Michael Jackson case is was about money this situation isn't this is a guy whose a predator that preys on little boys because he's a disgusting human being you people are so ignorant and dumb
Dominique April 30, 2013 at 08:39 PM
The prosecutors office released this ok yes the man should be protected he's not ruining a family he's doing the right thing and he's finally relieving this burden he had for 13 years you have no idea unless your a victim yourself i completely understand where this man is coming from and I would want my identity to be protected to I hope that cop goes away for a long time
Flood Plain May 04, 2013 at 12:27 AM
What is the statute of limitations for prosecuting a case like this? Thirteen years AGO is a long ago allegation. What physical evidence or authoritative corroborated evidence is even available?
Thomas Wood August 09, 2013 at 01:27 PM
I have a couple comments. A criminal lawsuit can result in jail time but there is a two year statute of limitations therefore, he should not have been arrested and made to make bail. A judgment in a civil suit would only result in a cash settlement for damages. Ethically, a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty but that is not the case involving sexual abuse of a child as can be seen by comments posted here. The accuser is clearly a troubled person that is probably seeing a therapist. If the therapist is practicing "Recovered Memory Therapy" the accuser may have created "False Memories" of being abused. This is a common result of that type of therapy. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been destroyed by bad therapy. To Daniel Hubbard: You can choose what you print. Please refrain from destroying peoples lives before they are found guilty in a court of law.

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