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http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050211/NEWS01/502110382/1004/NEWS01Appeals panel dismisses 1 charge against rabbiPublished in the Asbury Park Press 02/11/05By A. SCOTT FERGUSON STAFF WRITERThe former principal of an Ocean Township religious school should not have been convicted of endangering the welfare of one of his students, but the rest of his conviction on criminal sexual contact charges can stand, the state's Appellate Court ruled Thursday.Rabbi Baruch Lanner, now 55, was convicted in 2002 of two charges of endangering the welfare of a child, as well as one count each of aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact. He was facing six counts involving two teenage girls who attended Hillel High School between 1992 and 1996.While the three Appellate Court judges unanimously upheld three of the charges, they ruled that the one endangerment charge should be thrown out because the jury did not convict Lanner of having criminal sexual contact with one of the two students he was accused of assaulting.The court's decision will not affect how much time Lanner will eventually have to spend in prison because the trial judge sentenced him to a concurrent seven-year term. He will also have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.Barring additional legal appeals by his attorneys, Lanner, who lives in Fair Lawn and has been free on bail during the appeal of his sentence, must return to court on Feb. 23 for sentencing, the state Attorney General's Office said.Each side claimed that the ruling was a victory for their case."We're very satisfied with the results," Monmouth County Prosecutor John A. Kaye said.Because Lanner still faces seven years in state prison, Kaye said, the court's decision to drop one charge did not affect the core of the case against Lanner.One of Lanner's attorneys, Victoria Eiger of New York City, issued a prepared statement that said the decision vindicated her client."Rabbi Lanner is pleased that he was vindicated by the appellate court on the one charge brought against him by one of the complainants," Eiger said in the statement. "He will continue until he is vindicated on the charges brought by the second complainant."While Eiger declined to discuss whether any more appeals were being considered, Kaye said he expected Lanner's attorneys to appeal to the state Supreme Court.Deputy Attorney General Leslie Justus, who argued the case for the state, said that her office disagreed with the court's ruling to overturn the one endangerment conviction and that her office would review the decision.Officials with the Hillel school could not be reached for comment on Thursday.In March 2001, Lanner, who was then principal of the high school, was indicted on charges of criminal sexual contact with two female students, who were younger than 16 at the time. The two are now in their 20s.The charges came after one of the girl's stories appeared in a New York Jewish Week article that looked into allegations that Lanner abused students before he came to Hillel in 1982.Lanner left Hillel in 1997.During his trial in Monmouth County, Lanner's attorneys told jurors that the two girls were doing poorly in school at the time and they blamed Lanner for their failures.The jury later convicted Lanner of having criminal sexual contact with one of the girls but acquitted him of sexually abusing the second student.The jury found him guilty on the two counts of child endangerment, the most serious charges that carried a possible 10-year prison term. In October 2002, Judge Paul F. Chaiet sentenced Lanner to seven years in prison on the endangerment charges and four years on the sexual contact charges.The sentences were to run concurrently.In part of their appeal, Lanner's attorneys argued that because the jury did not convict Lanner of sexually abusing the one student, the child endangerment charges could not stand.The Appellate Court agreed."We recognize that M.C. did testify that defendant called her repeatedly at home, telling her that he loved her and that she would be his wife," the justices wrote in their decision. "That alleged contact, however, was not included in the court's charges as "sexual conduct which would impair or debauch' her morals. The court's instructions confined the claimed endangerment solely to the asserted physical contact."The state argued that since Lanner was found guilty of harassment, the endangerment charges should stand because the harassment involved "offensive touching."
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