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NJ Sex Assault Conviction Tossed Over Law Wording

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man serving prison time for aggravated sexual assault will get a new sentence after the state Supreme Court tossed his conviction over the wording of the law.

Eric Rangel was convicted of the first-degree crime and other offenses stemming from a 2007 attack on an 18-year-old woman in Lake Hiawatha in which the victim suffered fractures and bruises to her face.

Rangel was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 20 years for aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree crime, plus a consecutive seven-year term for aggravated assault.

He appealed the sentence based on the language of the aggravated sexual statute, which requires that sexual penetration occur "during the commission, or attempted commission, whether alone or with one or more other persons, of robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape.

Rangel claimed that "on another" refers to another person and not the sexual assault victim.

In its decision published Monday, a unanimous Supreme Court agreed with Rangel.

"Words make a difference," the court wrote. "We cannot, as the state urges, equate the term "another" with "victim.'"

The court noted that a separate statute defines aggravated sexual assault as a crime in which the victim suffers "severe personal injury," but that Rangel wasn't charged under that statute.

Rangel will be resentenced on charges of second-degree sexual assault, aggravated assault and obstruction. Acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, whose office prosecuted Rangel and argued the case before the Supreme Court, said Monday he would argue for Rangel to be sentenced to the maximum term allowable.

In an emailed statement, Knapp said the court's ruling is the first to raise an issue concerning the statute's interpretation.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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