Showing considerable composure, an 8-year-old girl testified in Hackensack today that former WNYW FOX 5 reporter Charles Leaf never touched her and that molestation allegations she made to a therapist were fed to her by her nanny, whom she called “Weronika.”
“Did anybody ever touch your private parts?” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph asked the girl, the first witness in Leaf’s sex assault trial, which opened this morning.
“No,” she replied.
“If they did, would you tell us?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said firmly.
“Weronika told me to say those things,” the girl said later.
Leaf wasn’t nearly as composed.
He smiled at first as the youngster described living with her mother, brother and “my cat, Alabama….She’s brown and furry. She is 16.”
At that point, he broke down, sobbing quietly.
During a break, Leaf and his wife embraced, crying, in the hallway of the Bergen County Courthouse.
The young girl repeatedly insisted that Leaf never touched her that way, and that she was afraid of the nanny, who prosecutors said expressed concerns that the girl was being molested to a playmate’s father.
That man went to authorities who interviewed the nanny and began an investigation that led to Leaf’s arrest in Oct. 7, 2010.
“We’re here because of betrayal,” Ralph, the prosecutor, told jurors during his opening statement this morning. “The child betrayed Charles Leaf by telling a secret he asked her to keep. But really, he betrayed his relationship with her by having her perform sexual acts with him, and ask that she keep it a secret.”
He portrayed Leaf as a man who “shattered the American dream” with “a dark secret, a stain on the image of a perfect family.”
Defense attorney Brian Neary countered with the portrait of a Marine assigned to an elite diplomatic detail stationed at embassies in Australia and Poland.
“His goal, his dream – was to become a U.S. Marine, even a paratrooper,” Neary told the jury. “He was chosen for a special detail to protect our government officials overseas protecting diplomats and secrets, those things important to the United States.”
While in Poland, Leaf met the daughter of a Polish diplomat and married her. They returned to the U.S., where she helped him get a journalism degree from Syracuse University. Then Monica Leaf went to school and became a nurse.
They had two children while Leaf was working reporting jobs in Arizona, Alabama, Colorado and Missouri before returning to the northeast to work at FOX NEWS in New York, Neary said.
“He would never be involved in the betrayal the prosecutor has described,” he said.
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