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Sex Charges Stand Against School Trip Chaperones

Bergen judge rules Wednesday that sex assault charges against former Catholic high school staffers can move forward despite alleged crimes occurring during overseas trip

Two former Paramus Catholic employees can be charged for allegedly having sex with students on a school trip to Germany, according to a Superior Court judge's ruling Tuesday.

Artur Sopel of River Edge and Michael Sumulikoski of Elmwood Park were  after three teenage girls alleged that they had engaged in sexual conduct with the pair during a February trip that year. An additional girl, a former student at , came forward later stating she engaged in sexual activities with Sopel in spring of 2010.

The  following their arrest and were  on 25 counts.

Defense attorneys Philip De Vencentes (representing Sumulikoski) and Ray Flood (for Sopel) argued that the county does not have jurisdiction over an alleged incident that occured overseas, all while maintaining their clients' innocence.

But prosecutors that they have the right to charge Sopel and Sumulikoski because both men were granted supervisory authority as trip chaperones in New Jersey. 

After a , Superior Court Judge James Guida issued a ruling Tuesday that authorities can prosecute the two former Paramus Catholic employees on . 

"Under the narrow facts of this case, the court finds that conduct in New Jersey constitutes an anchor to which jurisdiction to this state is tethered," he said in court, reading from a portion of his 22-page opinion on the matter.

Initially, Guida was expected to deliver his decision on Monday but was delayed after irate drug defendant Benjamin Blohm from New Milford allegedly kicked and busted a water pipe on the third floor of the Bergen County Courthouse causing flooding, damage, injuries, and the evacuation of the premises.

Both Galantucci and Flood stated in a Star- Ledger report that they intend to appeal Guida's ruling stating that the that the state would be overstepping its legal jurisdiction by attempting to try both men for crimes alleged to have taken place overseas.

The indictment charges Sopel with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 12 counts of sexual assault, which are second degree crimes each carrying a maximum term of 10 years in prison. He is also charged with two counts of witness tampering, a third degree crime carrying a maximum term of five years incarceration.

Sumilikoski's indictment includes three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and three counts of sexual assault, which are second degree crimes each carrying a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Prior to their arrests, Sopel was the vice president of operations at the school, and Sumilikoski served as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach. They have both been removed from their positions by the Archdiocese of Newark.

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Ray July 16, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I hope they don't get off on a technicality.

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