State Superior Court affirms sentence for State College man convicted of child sex abuse

A State College man convicted of raping and sexually assaulting a child had his at least 28-year state prison sentence affirmed Tuesday by the state Superior Court.

State College police in May 2017 accused Joseph Neff of molesting a then-8-year-old girl from 2009 to 2016. A jury convicted him seven months later of more than 700 counts of sexual assault.

Neff, 38, admitted to the allegations before the trial, but later argued the Centre County district attorney’s office wrongly showed jurors photos of the girl and whether county Judge Katherine Oliver erroneously allowed testimony from one of Neff’s previous romantic partners.

The three-judge panel was not swayed by either argument.

The photos were “harmless” and “would not have affected the outcome of the trial,” Senior Superior Court Judge John Musmanno wrote.

He also ruled the testimony was not intentionally elicited by prosecutors. The statement was in response to an unrelated question, Musmanno wrote.

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Joseph Neff tries to avoid the media as he leaves the the Centre County Courthouse on November 30, 2017. Abby Drey

“The trial court thoroughly and immediately instructed the jury that (the woman’s) prohibited testimony should be disregarded, and that it was the sole purview of the jury to assess the credibility of witnesses,” Musmanno wrote. “Neff is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one.”

Neff was sent to Albion state prison in Erie County after Oliver handed down the sentence in May 2018. His maximum sentence is 56 years.

The Centre County district attorney’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday to request for comment. Defense lawyer Karen Muir has not yet had time to review the ruling with Neff, she said Tuesday.

“However, I will do so quickly so that he and I can explore his options and decide on the next steps,” she said.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.