The former television reporter convicted of molesting a 4-year-old girl defiantly maintained his innocence for nearly half an hour in a packed courtroom before a judge sentenced him to 26 years in prison on Friday.
“I can’t stand before you and say I’m sorry for something I didn’t do,” the journalist, Charles Leaf, handcuffed and wearing an orange inmate’s jump suit, told Superior Court Judge James J. Guida in Hackensack. “Those who prey upon children are the worst kind of criminals. I am not one of them,” he declared “I am innocent, 100 percent innocent.”
Leaf, the son of a police officer, steadfastly maintained that he never abused the girl — who recanted the story of abuse that she told her baby sitter and then authorities in 2010. He accused state child-protection workers of conducting a witch hunt against him and destroying his family because his wife stood by him. Leaf, who lived in Wyckoff until his conviction, has two children.
Anyone can be falsely accused and then encounter so much “prejudice and scorn” that it will ruin his life and the lives of those around him, he said.
Glancing at handwritten notes and sometimes tearing up as he spoke, Leaf said he had passed a polygraph exam and a psychosexual evaluation administered by a leader in the field.
“I have led a life of honor, integrity, courage and commitment,” he declared, referring to his military service in the U.S. Marines. And as an investigative reporter at Fox News 5, he said, his job was to hold the powerful accountable.
A jury found Leaf guilty in February of eight charges, including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, child endangerment, hindering apprehension by intimidating the victim, possession of child pornography on a computer and evidence tampering for destroying a hard drive. He was convicted of touching the girl’s private parts and instructing her to touch him in a sexual manner. He also warned her not to tell anyone, but the girl told her baby sitter in October 2010, leading to Leaf’s arrest, the prosecution said.
The prosecution also called an expert who testified about the pressure some children undergo that leads them to recant testimony about crimes in some circumstances. The victim’s identity is being withheld by The Record because she is a minor.
Testifying in his own defense, Leaf vigorously denied the charges. The girl, now 8, recanted her story and testified that Leaf never touched her in a sexual manner. Leaf’s father-in-law also testified, saying he had downloaded and watched child pornography on a family computer in Leaf’s home.
Leaf can maintain his innocence and claim he has led a "life of honor and integrity," but the record shows otherwise.
First, a family member in the past had accused him of sexual misconduct:
A sister of troubled Fox 5 reporter Charles Leaf says the Emmy-award winning newsman has molested young girls before.
Susan Gaudet told the Daily News her younger brother, busted Thursday on sex assault charges, abused two of his relatives in the 1980s.
"I'd like to see them put him away for the rest of his life," fumed Gaudet, one of Leaf's three sisters, from Jacksonville, N.C. "I am so full of rage. If I had the opportunity to spit in his face and hurt him, I would do it."
Leaf, 40, was charged this week with molesting a 4-year-old girl inside his Wyckoff, N.J., home. The married father of two is being held at Bergen County Jail on $250,000 bail.
It was 25 years ago when Gaudet found out Leaf abused two young female relatives multiple times at their grandparents' home in Trucksville, Pa.
The abuse started when Leaf was just 9years old and his first victim was 3, Gaudet said.
Over the next six years, Leaf repeatedly molested the girl and her sister, who is two years younger, said Gaudet, 53.
Leaf was eventually confronted, and he immediately confessed to the sordid acts, Gaudet said.
"He said, 'Mom, I did it,'" Gaudet recalled. "Just like that. And he's never denied it. He probably wanted help, but he never got it."
Leaf was never prosecuted, Gaudet said. The incident divided the family, but Leaf's sister started talking to him again in recent years.
She remained concerned that he might molest another young girl.
"He continually reassured me we had nothing to worry about," said Gaudet, a mother of two. "I kind of resolved myself to the fact that this was something in the past, but now we know it wasn't."
Gaudet said she revealed her brother's dark past to his wife, Monika, for the first time on Friday. The couple has a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
"She said, 'I don't know what to believe. I don't know what to do,'" Gaudet recounted.
In recent years, Leaf, an ex-Marine who has won two Emmy Awards, battled depression and often threatened suicide, his sister said.
"He's tormented," Gaudet said. "Little did we know how tormented he really was."
Leaf had a reputation as a bully and a liar when he worked for FOX News - this is a piece describing Leaf's reporting style that was written one month before he was arrested on molestation charges in October 2010:
Fox News has launched the careers of some of the most ignorant, unethical, anti-journalists, ever to fondle a microphone. Some have had great success like Glenn Beck. Others have disappeared into media black holes likes Jesse Watters.
Following in the footsteps of Watters is a reporter for the Fox affiliate in New York (WNYW), Charles Leaf. With an obnoxious bearing and a devotion to dishonesty, Leaf has been falling all over himself to fabricate a story where none exists. It’s no wonder that he has found himself promoted to numerous segments on the Fox News Channel. He has been featured with Fox & Friends and Greta Van Susteren. And Megyn Kelly has virtually adopted him and moved him into her den.
The story Leaf has been investigating is related to the controversial non-mosque that is not at ground zero. His premise is that persons associated with the project are either corrupt or connected to terrorists. However, his reports haven’t even provided enough evidence to start a rumor.
First Leaf conducted an ambush interview on real estate developer, Sharif El-Gamal, that yielded nothing to support his contention that El-Gamal was corrupt. Leaf merely insinuated that something must be wrong because El-Gamal was a waiter eight years prior to investing in the Park51 project. The implication being that anyone who starts a small business, works hard for nearly a decade, and achieves success, is deserving of suspicion.
Then Leaf turned his focus to investor Hisham Elzanaty. Again, Leaf ambushed Elzanaty without acquiring any usable information. The only purpose for Leaf’s ambushes is to suggest something sinister when the target declines to talk to him. To that end Leaf made wild accusations about Elzanaty’s contribution to a Muslim charity. As it turns out, the charity, the Holy Land Foundation, was later investigated for ties to Hamas. But that wasn’t until two years after Elzanaty’s donation, and the feds acknowledged that contributors would not have known about the organization’s relationship with Hamas as it was deliberately concealed.
Both of these reports failed completely to produce evidence of any wrongdoing. They were exercises in insipidness and their only purpose was to insinuate and intimidate. They were utterly unprofessional and potentially libelous. Yet Leaf exalted himself as if he had exposed Watergate. And Fox News (particularly Megyn Kelly) went along by broadcasting Leaf’s empty innuendos and affirming the unsupported conclusions.
The most recent edition of this phony story shows Leaf continuing to ambush unsuspecting figures with highly-charged questions that have no basis in fact. In a new segment broadcast on Fox News by Megyn Kelly, Leaf approached both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at separate events and asked a loaded question to the effect of: Do you still support the right to build the mosque now that you know it’s developer contributed to a terrorist organization?
What a dishonest piece of tabloid excrement Leaf is. First of all, neither Bloomberg nor Gillibrand “knew” of the allegations prior to Leaf making them. And there was certainly no reason to take his word for it based on his shoddy reputation. Secondly, Leaf outright lied by asserting that Elzanaty contributed to a terrorist organization. The HLF was a credentialed charity at the time of the donation and there is no evidence that he had any knowledge of any untoward activities. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary.
Charles Leaf is on the fast track to Fox News stardom. He is demonstrating the skill set so admired by Fox News, and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, its executive masters: dishonesty, partisanship, sensationalism, and aggression. He has a gift for innuendo and for advancing false premises. He expertly exploits the ignorance of his audience who are not likely to research the subject matter themselves. And he will barge into any affair and assert his bogus inquisitions without embarrassment.
Yes, Charles Leaf will go far in that environment. And we need to be aware of him as he climbs the Fox ladder of propaganda. We need to watch as this slimeball advances to the mothership and spreads his brand of sophistry and deceit. He is the embodiment of the Fox ethic and the quintessential Fox blowhard. Remember his name.
Update: Megyn Kelly hosted Charles Leaf again today, even though he had nothing new to add. He just repeated his slanderous accusation that Elzanaty had contributed to a terrorist organization. Leaf is an irredeemable liar, and Kelly is his enabler.
Before Leaf got to Fox 5, when he was working at a smaller affiliate in the south, he was accused of assaulting a councilwoman in Alabama and getting into a fight with his cameraman:
Earlier in his career, Leaf was a reporter in Mobile, Ala., for WPMI, where he became known for his “in-your-face” style, according to the Mobile Register.
In 1999, he left the station abruptly following a well publicized incident with a local councilwoman, who sued him for allegedly assaulting her while attempting to interview her for a story, according to the newspaper.
The suit claimed he slammed a car door on her arms and legs as she tried to get into a car and leave. No criminal charges were filed, and Leaf called the suit “baseless,” the paper reported.
A year earlier, police responded to the television station to investigate a reported fight between Leaf and a cameraman. Again, no criminal charges were filed, and Leaf said the incident was blown out of proportion, according to the paper.
There's your "life of honor and integrity," Mr. Leaf.
The only question I have about all of this is, why isn't Campbell Brown screaming about the Leaf case and wondering aloud how many other Fox News employees are pedophiles?