Friday, February 03, 2006

Update: Case of Lawrence Cohen

Sex offender's neighbors say he poses risk - They want an order for him to move, cite "Miracle's Law"
By James A. Quirk and Alesha Williams, staff writers
Asbury Park Press
February 3, 2006

MANALAPAN — The return of a well-known convicted sex offender — who claimed in 1997 that a multiple personality disorder prompted him to try to arrange a weekend of bondage sex with an 11-year-old boy — has a neighborhood demanding that he be forced to move.

Lawrence Cohen's return to the neighborhood where he lived nine years ago may also be the first major test of the township's Sex Offender Residency Restriction ordinance, which prohibits sex offenders registered with the state under Megan's Law from living within 2,500 feet of a school, day care center, park or library.

Released from prison Jan. 9, Cohen is now living with his parents on Alexandria Drive — right down the street from the Monmouth County Library Headquarters on Symmes Drive.

Manalapan Police Chief Stuart Brown said he is reviewing Cohen's case with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office to determine if Cohen is in violation of the ordinance, known around town as "Miracle's Law" in honor of Miracle Torregrossa, the woman who helped create it.

In question is whether Miracle's Law applies to Cohen because the ordinance doesn't apply to registered sex offenders who had established residences in town before the ordinance passed in August. At that time, Cohen was still in prison, which would have been his legal domicile then.

Township Attorney James Kinneally said he plans to review the legal ramifications of Cohen's case, but couldn't comment further.

"We'd like to do everything legally," said Robert DeSalvatore, the father of two 7-year-olds in the neighborhood. "We don't want to do anything maliciously. But we have a lot of children in the area, and I'm hoping Miracle's Law works."

Cohen has not yet been classified under the state's tier system for sex offenders. A Tier 3 classification would mean that Cohen's neighbors would be notified of his presence and criminal record.

But those neighbors are acutely aware of his presence.

"People in the development are well aware of the crime that was committed, and they were well aware of his release," said Manalapan Police Capt. Louis Moreto.

The Alexandria Drive neighborhood may be more sensitive than most. In 1994 on an adjacent street, 6-year-old Amanda Wengert was taken from her house and killed by neighbor Kevin Aquino. Aquino, now serving a life term in prison, had previously molested three children in the neighborhood.

Since last weekend, word rippled through the neighborhood that Cohen had returned to his parents' house. By Tuesday, roughly 30 concerned residents converged at the Township Committee's public meeting to alert officials to Cohen's presence and demand that he be made to relocate.

Marie Curcio, the mother of two childrens ages 3 and 7, said she and other parents are deeply disappointed that police may not be required to notify the community of Cohen's presence if he is not classified as a Tier 3 offender. But Curcio made it clear that the neighborhood will keep its own level of vigilance.

"I believe knowledge is a very powerful tool, and if you know what someone looks like, you are in control," Curcio said. "You know this person is not talking to me to chitchat, you know he's possibly trying to gain your trust for bad reasons. If I'm walking down my block, I know who this individual is and that he can pose a threat, and in the past has posed a threat."

In December 1998, Cohen, then 33, who was a kindergarten teacher for P.S. 307 in Brooklyn, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for transmitting child pornography from his home computer. This was discovered after Cohen was arrested by a police officer posing as a child in an Internet chat room, who pretended to comply with Cohen's requests that the two meet for sex.

In March 1997, when he arrived at the agreed-upon hotel in Wall, arresting officers found that Cohen had brought a car trunk full of bondage gear, including leather dog collars and feathers, for the weekend's intended activities. Later, at his desk at P.S. 307, police found more restraining devices and a bag of feathers.

In federal court, Cohen was accused of sending a government informant three batches totaling about 20 pornographic images, some showing nude boys in dog collars engaged in sex with men. He pleaded guilty to one of the charges.

On Wednesday, Cohen filed a report of a bias incident after resident Tom Grande pulled alongside him in his SUV while Cohen was walking on Franklin Lane. Cohen, who is Jewish, was wearing a yarmulke at the time, and he claims in his report that Grande said to him, "I want to see what Jew look like."

Grande says that he did not speak to Cohen, and that he "took the rap" for a neighbor who did. This neighbor, whom Grande would not identify, actually told Cohen: "I just want to see what you look like." Grande stated he took Cohen's picture from his SUV so he could hand copies out to his neighbors.

"I'll take the heat for it because I got my picture," Grande said. "I did what I had to do to protect my family and children. This convicted felon has more rights than the children of Manalapan. To me, as a taxpayer, that's an outrage.

Cohen could not be reached for comment Thursday.

James A. Quirk: (732) 308-7758 or; Alesha Williams: (732) 308-7756 or


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note the link points to the awareness center in which the artice mentions a name of a boys school..if you do a search for that name.. youll find it was a name made up for the movie sleepers. Why bother linking to a site that is false?

February 05, 2006 9:07 PM  

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