Trenton cop admits to child porn charge, gives up job
TRENTON » City cop Paul Marinelli dedicated his life to locking up criminals. Now he is one. Marinelli also can no longer call himself a cop after he was ensnared and pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to a huge statewide bust of child sex predators.
His plea deal requires he give up his job on Trenton Police force but doesn’t require him to do any hard state prison time.
And if he has it his way, Marinelli, 53, of George’s Road in South Brunswick, won’t spend a day in a county jail.
The now-ex Trenton cop admitted Friday to a thirddegree charge of possession of child pornography as part of a plea pact with prosecutors, according to a statement from the state Attorney General’s Office.
However, his attorney, David Schroth, told The Trentonian his client actually pleaded guilty to a child endangerment charge.
He said Marinelli takes responsibility for his actions and is paying a “heavy price.”
“He deeply regrets what he has done here,” the Ewing-based attorney said.
Tired of their feet-dragging, a judge previously warned prosecutors he would dismiss the troubled cop’s case this month if they didn’t move on it. Prosecutors said they were still waiting on forensic results.
The 22-year Trenton veteran cop’s guilty plea amounted to a sudden about-face after he initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He had been suspended without pay since his arrest last September as part of a massive crackdown known as “Operation Safety Net,” which ended up with 79 people in shackles.
The sweetheart deal hammered out between Marinelli and prosecutors requires he forfeit his job with Trenton Police as prosecutors will also seek to put him behind bars at the county jail for up to six months.
Marinelli already has enough years in the force to retire early. And the agreement didn’t say anything about his pension benefits being taken away.
His attorney confirmed “we intend to seek pension” benefits and he will also ask the judge to waive any jail sentence and put Marinelli on probation.
The ex cop didn’t admit to a crime that requires him to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, Schroth said.
He noted Marinelli’s service as a cop and Iraq war veteran spanning more than three decades.
The ex-cop spent his “entire working life on the front lines trying to make our city safer and all of our lives better,” Schroth said.
But behind closed doors, Marinelli tried to keep the public from knowing his dirty little secret.
His double life didn’t stay under wraps for too long.
In September of last year, detectives raided Marinelli’s home and seized three laptops and USB flash and thumb drives.
He was found with 15 images in his email account that “depicted prepubescent” girls from infants to 12-year-olds “nude or involved is sex acts,” according to the criminal complaint obtained by The Trentonian, including at least one depicting a young girl having sex with a man.
Authorities also uncovered three kiddie porn videos while scouring the devices, the AG’s office said.
During an interview with detectives Sept. 6 at the Ewing Township Police headquarters, Marinelli only admitted to using his email account to send himself child porn images.
However, no evidence was uncovered that suggested Marinelli distributed the child porn to others which could have exposed him to potential sex offender registration.
He is set for sentencing Oct. 26.