AP NEWS

GOP leader’s firm pulls wording about sex assault defendants

October 14, 2019

WESTFIELD, N.J. (AP) — The top elected Republican in New Jersey’s Assembly race this year said Monday his law firm is removing language on its website that says it would work to “discredit” sexual assault accusers as well as help other clients get their names off a state sex offender registry.

Jon Bramnick is the Assembly minority leader as well as a personal injury attorney whose firm also handles criminal cases, including defending sexual assault defendants.

The wording on the firm’s website came to light after stories were published in the New Jersey Globe, leading Bramnick to pull the language on the site. It also has led to sharp rebukes from Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy, who called the language “disgusting and unacceptable.”

At issue in part is concern over not believing women’s accounts of sexual assault. In an interview Bramnick said the language had been written by an outside vendor and was being reworked because it was “poorly written,” but he added that defending clients who say they’re falsely accused is what defense attorneys do.

“Of course, if someone lies about a client, your job as a criminal defense attorney is to cross-examine,” he said. “I don’t deny we represent people. We’re not hiding anything— that’s what we do.”

Bramnick and the other members of the 80-seat Assembly are at the top of the tick in Nov. 5′s election. Democrats control 54 seats to Republicans’ 26.

Before it was removed, the website described parts of its criminal defense practice.

“Maybe you, as the one charged, may have believed the sexual act was consensual. Maybe you were unknowingly drugged and did not have the capacity to control your behavior, let alone to form a criminal intent. We will investigate your case and seek to discredit your accuser,” the site read.

Another section of the site that Bramnick says is being edited addressed Megan’s Law, which passed after the murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. It imposes lifetime registration requirements on offenders but allows for the application to be removed if they don’t re-commit a crime within 15 years after conviction or release from a correctional facility and aren’t likely to pose a threat to the safety of others

“Don’t let one bad decision in your past ruin your entire future. If you have been convicted of a sex offense in New Jersey, you need to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney and explore your options for getting removed from the Megan’s Law sex registry,” the site said.

This year’s election expected to have low turnout and has mostly flown under the radar, but both Democrats and Republicans are targeting a handful of districts they think can be flipped.

Bramnick’s 21st District seat, which covers parts of Morris, Somerset and Unions counties, is among the seats Democrats are hoping to pick off. The election also comes after years of voter registration gains by Democrats, who now exceed Republicans by nearly 1 million voters.

It’s for that reason that some Republicans are crying foul over the attacks on Bramnick: They view the issue as purely politics.

Republican state Sen. Joe Pennacchio said the stories amount to “an October surprise,” aimed at derailing Bramnick’s chances.

“These reactions are political in nature. This is selective outrage,” Pennacchio said.

Bramnick’s district has become more Democratic over recent years. In 2015, Republicans had a voter registration advantage over Democrats of about 3,700 voters. Division of Elections figures show so far in 2019 that Democrats have about 5,200 more voters than Republicans.