Former Parsippany Hills High School teacher gets 5-year sentence for improper relationship with student

A former Parsippany Hills High School teacher was sentenced Monday to five years in state prison after pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child through sexually explicit texting.

The case was brought by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Parsippany Police under the direction of Chief Paul Philipps.

“The state prison sentence for this offender will hopefully send a message that the abuse of children, in any way shape or form, by those in positions of authority will not be tolerated,” Knapp said

Jenna Leahey, 35, was indicted three years ago on two counts of second degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, one count of second degree Sexual Assault, one count of second degree Official Misconduct and three counts of fourth degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Leahey, who now lives in Mount Olive, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child by engaging in conduct that would debauch or impair the morals of a minor.

Leahey was an English teacher when she began an inappropriate relationship with a then 16-year-old student. The relationship started in late January 2013 when the defendant began exchanging sexually explicit text messages with the victim and later sent sexually explicit pictures of herself to him. The relationship continued through June 6 of that year with acts occurring on and off school grounds.

Meg Rodriguez, the Supervising Assistant Prosecutor, noted that as a teacher of English, Leahey clearly understood what she was doing.

“Of all people, she knew and understood the significance and power of words,” Rodriguez said.

In pronouncing sentence in state Superior Court, Morristown, Judge Salem V, Ahto noted the “vivid, lurid details” of many of the text messages.

Prosecutor Knapp expressed thanks to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Sex Crimes/Child Endangerment Unit and to Parsippany Police for the successful conclusion of this case.

Any inquiries can be directed to Public Information Officer Fred Snowflack at [email protected]

Ceremony Stresses Importance of Crime Victims’ Rights

Ceremony Stresses Importance of Crime Victims’ Rights

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office commemorated National Crime Victims’ Rights Week on Monday with a ceremony hosted by Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and keynoted by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.

Knapp began the hour-long event in Morristown by reminding the audience that what are now known as victims’ rights did not exist in the criminal justice system prior to the 1980s. At that time, relatives of victims were normally kept out of the courtroom unless they were appearing as witnesses. Many times they were often denied a chance to speak at sentencing.

That began to change in 1981 when National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was commemorated for the first time. Shortly thereafter, victims’ rights in New Jersey were supported by voters after a campaign spearheaded by the late James O’Brien, a former Morris County freeholder from Mendham Township and the father of a murder victim.

Voters supported a constitutional amendment mandating that crime victims “shall be treated with fairness, compassion and respect by the criminal justice system,” and that a victim of a crime shall not be denied the right to be present at public judicial proceedings except when sequestered prior to completing testimony. The amendment ended victims’ status as afterthoughts in the criminal justice system.
As Knapp put it, “Victims of crime rightfully deserve due attention from our trained professionals as they navigate through the criminal justice system, and dedicated members of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office’s Victim Witness Unit play an integral role during this process. With unwavering compassion, they serve as true advocates in addressing all crime victims’ needs in Morris County.”

One of those speaking Monday was Laurie Parks, whose daughter was murdered in 2005. Parks said that she was adrift after her daughter’s murder and that the prosecutor’s Victim Witness Unit helped her persevere. Knapp applauded the work of the Victim Witness Unit, saying that they serve as advocates for the needs of all victims.

Guadagno, a former federal prosecutor and Monmouth County sheriff, stressed the importance of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, but said victims need advocates every day. She also pointed out New Jersey’s commitment to the rights of victims, noting that crime victims’ rights are enshrined in the New Jersey Constitution.

Crime victims must be respected every day, a point driven home by Monday’s ceremony and Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

For more information, contact Fred Snowflack at (973) 829-8159 or [email protected]