Crime

State College man found guilty of more than 700 counts of child sex assault

Joseph Neff tries to avoid the media as he leaves the first day of his trial on Thursday, Nomveber 30, 2017 at the Centre County Courthouse. He was found guilty of rape and sexual assault Friday after a two-day trial in Bellefonte.
Joseph Neff tries to avoid the media as he leaves the first day of his trial on Thursday, Nomveber 30, 2017 at the Centre County Courthouse. He was found guilty of rape and sexual assault Friday after a two-day trial in Bellefonte. adrey@centredaily.com

After three hours of deliberation, a jury of 11 women and one man returned a verdict against Joseph Neff — guilty on all counts.

Neff, 36, of State College, was charged by State College police in May with 734 counts ranging from rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child to corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor. According to police, the conduct had occurred from 2009 through 2013-14 and started when the child was 8 years old.

The trial began Thursday when jurors heard testimony from several witnesses for the prosecution, including the minor female at the center of the case, her family members and State College police. Neff took the stand at the end of the day to testify in his own defense.

Friday featured closing arguments by the respective attorneys. Neff’s attorney Deb Lux reminded the jury of the principles of presumed innocence and the burden of proof.

She claimed that due to the fact that Neff had not been consistently around the female and there were multiple people allegedly in the home at the time of the contact, it was doubtful as much assault could have happened as she said.

She also reminded jurors that Neff’s taped admission by police was not recorded until after more than an hour of speaking with police officers, and Neff had claimed to have been threatened by police into making his confessions.

The prosecution argued that Neff had already admitted to several instances of inappropriate contact to both police and an ex-girlfriend who testified Friday. Prosecution also noted that Neff defended the female during an interview with police, saying she hadn’t been lying.

The prosecution touched on the emotional testimony of family members, saying they had shown no hatred but rather confusion toward someone they had welcomed into their family. The jury was also reminded of Neff’s own admission to the police, regardless of his claims that he was coerced.

During deliberations, jurors asked to rehear the recorded interview between Neff and State College police Detective Chris Weaver, during which time Neff told police he had “fallen in love” with the female. He also stated that she had never initiated any contact, but she had expressed “flirty behavior.”

Jurors were also re-read a portion of a letter Neff had written to an ex-girlfriend in which he stated he did not “by any definition” rape the female.

Jurors returned a unanimous decision to render guilty verdicts to all felony counts, which include one count of rape, one count of statutory sexual assault, 100 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 125 counts of aggravated indecent assault, 125 counts of indecent assault, 25 counts of corruption of minors and more than 350 counts of unlawful contact with a minor. Guilty verdicts were also delivered on misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors.

Jurors were polled at the request of Lux, and unanimously agreed on the verdicts. A motion was made by the prosecution to revoke Neff’s bail, which sits at $300,000, but the motion was denied by Centre County Judge Katherine Oliver, who presided over the trial.

A sentencing date has been set for Feb. 16. The assistant district attorney indicated Neff would be looking at a potential life sentence given the number of felony counts.

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