Former editor convicted of sexually abusing two girls

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:48

Mario Palomo may also face a second trial on charges brought by two additional accusers Morristown - The former editor of The Sparta Independent and The Township Journal has been found guilty of 25 counts of sexually abusing and raping his niece from the time she came to live with him in 1997 until his arrest in August 2006 and then her half-sister when she visited them when she was nine years old. The young women are now 21 and 20 years old. The conviction of Mario R. Palomo, 49, on Friday, July 1, comes one month short of five years from his arrested by Mount Olive police. He was 44 then. Palomo was originally indicted on charges involving the sexual assault of four girls. However, the just completed case focused only on his niece and her half-sister. Palomo remains under indictment on charges he sexually abused two other young women between January 1993 and December 1995, beginning when they were 6 and 7 years old. These women are now in their mid-twenties. Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12. At the trial A news story by Peggy Wright posted on the Asbury Park Press Web site recounts some of the testimony given at trial by the older of his two accusers. Wright’s story reads: “Part of the unsuccessful defense was that the older accuser, now 21, wanted to stop living in the United States with Palomo, whom she had viewed as a father figure, and return to finish high school in 2006 in her native El Salvador. The half-sister had contended that Palomo sexually abused her when she visited this country from El Salvador. “The older victim had testified that Palomo had cast her in 'some weird wife role’ by engaging her routinely in sex but encouraging her to be an independent thinker and be educated about politics and world events. She testified he also had told her he believed that relatives, not strangers, were more suitable for teaching young girls about intimacy and sex.” Meanwhile, according to a story in the Morristown Daily Record: “The older victim, now a 21-year-old college student, had told jurors that Palomo gradually introduced her to sex beginning when she was 9 and took erotic photographs of her. Her half-sister, now 20, was sexually abused by Palomo in Frelinghuysen when she visited the United States from her country of origin, El Salvador. “Defense lawyer Sharon Kean had tried to rip holes in testimony by the two victims, particularly criticizing the older victim’s assertion that she was isolated and had no one to confide in while living with Palomo. Kean had elicited that this victim returned for visits to relatives in El Salvador and frequently was in the company of Palomo’s girlfriend.” Five years Why did it take so long for the case against Palomo to come to trial? Neither the prosecutor in the case nor Palomo’s defense lawyer returned calls seeking comment by deadline. However, a number of factors affected the timing of the case: Palomo’s niece returned to her mother in El Salvador shortly after his arrest and may not have been immediately available for questioning by investigators. During the time leading up to the trial, Palomo was housed either in the medical wing of the Morris County Jail or at the Ann Klein Forensic Hospital in Trenton, according to reports in the Courier Post and Mount Olive Chronicle. The center is a 200-bed psychiatric facility that provides care and treatment to individuals within the legal system suffering from mental illness. He was initially indicted in September 2007, and then again in September 2010. The second indictment re-set the clock to bring him to trail. The trial began nine months after the second indictment. Sentencing Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12. Before that happens, Palomo must be evaluated at New Jersey’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center to see if he meets the criteria as a repetitive sex offender. “These young girls ... suffered unimaginable abuse as a result of his vile acts,” Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said in an article appearing in the Newark Star Ledger, “and for this we will seek no punishment less than that which effectively results in a life sentence.”

Mario R. Palomo was a naturalized American citizen who had been born and raised in El Salvador. His father was a banker who had been kidnapped during a troubling time in the country’s history. A brother was in the military and did a tour of duty during the Gulf War. He came to the United States to go to college.
Colleagues at Straus Newspapers described Palomo as a cultured person with a sense of the world as well as the local communities he and his newspapers covered. Noted for his skill in photography and graphic design, Palomo won awards for his newspaper page layouts from the Suburban Newspapers of American, a national journalism trade group.
It also was commonplace for other editors to seek him out for help with the design of their newspapers. At first, these were informal exchanges between co-workers; about a year ago, Straus formalized his contributions by promoting him to director of editorial design.
At Straus offices, Palomo’s colleagues said there was no indication of anything other than a strong father-daughter relationship between Palomo and his niece. Some said they assumed the young girl was his daughter; others said they knew she was a niece.
They also said she spoke very little English when she first came to this country, but had grown into an articulate young woman.
The young woman was a frequent visitor to the newspaper office. She shared photographs of a trip she and her mother had taken to Europe. She and Palomo frequently talked on the telephone. Said one Straus co-worker: “He would call her 'Beautiful;’ she would call him 'Papi.’”
Palomo had no prior criminal record when he was arrested on Aug. 24, 2006.
He was suspended the next day without pay from his responsibilities as editor of The Sparta Independent and The Township Journal newspapers, pending the outcome of the case.
Jeanne Straus, president of Straus News which published The Sparta Independent and The Township Journal as well as seven other weekly newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, issued the following statement this week:
“Mr. Palomo was convicted of heinous acts; we today terminated his employment. After his arrest and indictment Mr. Palomo was suspended without pay. Now that the jury has spoken, his employment is officially ended.”

Aug. 24, 2006
Mario R. Palomo is arrested and charged with sexually assaulting his niece, at that time a 16-year-old girl who told authorities the abuse began when she came to live with him in 1997.
Palomo, 44, is charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and second-degree child endangerment. He is held at the Morris County Jail on $1 million. He was placed in the jail’s medical wing.
September 2007
A Morris County, N.J., grand jury issued a 16-count indictment accusing him of assaulting four girls. The incidents occurred in Hunterdon, Warren and Morris counties, according to the indictment.
One girl, described as his niece, told authorities Palomo sexually abused her for more than seven years, starting when she was 8.
September 2010
Morris County grand jury returns a revised, 31-count indictment against the former managing editor of two weekly newspapers in Sussex County, who is accused of sexually assaulting four girls between 1993 and 2006.
The new indictment includes 13 counts of sexual assault, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault, six counts of child endangerment and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact.
The old indictment charged Palomo with five counts each of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment, and one count of aggravated criminal sexual contact.
July 1, 2011
A Morris County jury of eight men and four women found Mario Palomo, now 49, guilty of 25 counts that included aggravated sexual assault, child endangerment and other sexual abuse of his niece and her half-sister at his homes in either Mount Olive and Frelinghuysen in Warren County between the late 1990s and 2006.
He remains under indictment on charges he sexually abused two other young girls between Jan. 1, 1993 and Dec. 31, 1995, beginning when they were 6 and 7. Sentencing tentatively was set for Aug. 12.