Conflict erupted in only the second day of the trial of a former construction company owner from Upper Saddle River charged with sexually assaulting a young girl.
A detective was testifying Thursday in Hackensack when defense attorney Joshua Cohn referred to previously dismissed indictments against his client, Louis Tantillo, witnesses said.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristen DeMarco objected and Superior Court Judge Robert M. Vinci instructed the jurors to ignore the comment.
After Vinci dismissed the jury for the day, Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Joseph W. Torre asked the judge to censure or fine Cohn, witnesses said.
Torre said the comments showed either incompetence or an intent to prejudice the jury, they said.
Vinci reprimanded the defense lawyer in front of a courtroom full of spectators and said the issue would be the first order of business on Friday.
Tantillo, 55, is accused of sexually assaulting and endangering the then-11-year-old girl during a sleepover at his home in 2009.
The case emerged five years later, after authorities said the girl confided in a school counselor who, in turn, called her mother and state child welfare workers.
After two failed attempts at prosecuting Tantillo in 2014 and 2016, prosecutors obtained a third indictment from a grand jury in Hackensack in December 2017.
The two previous attempts were dismissed based on the alleged victim’s apparent inability to specify when she contends the assault occurred.
Refusing a plea deal, Tantillo has relied, in part, on an argument that the time period is too broad. His lawyer also has argued that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence.
Tantillo has remained stoic through the first two days of the trial.
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