TOMS RIVER – The Howell Township police sergeant arrested last week in a sting operation in Toms River has been ordered released from incarceration.
47-year-old Richard Conte, who also leads Monmouth County’s Emergency Response Team, is accused of trying to set up a meeting with a 15-year-old girl for sex. In actuality, Conte was talking to a police officer during a sting operation.
Evidence presented at this morning’s detention hearing indicated that Conte had condoms in his pocket when he was arrested.
Although the State Attorney General’s Office was trying to keep Conte locked up, Conte’s attorney argued that his client is not a flight risk or a danger to the community. He also indicated that because of bail reform, Conte’s career as a law enforcement officer should not be held against him.
Judge Rochelle Gizinski ordered the release around 10:45 a.m during a detention hearing in courtroom number 11 in downtown Toms River.
Peter Aseltine, the Public Information Officer with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, confirms that Conte was charged with second-degree attempted luring or enticing of a child.
According to Aseltine, “Conte allegedly communicated using social media with an individual he believed to be a 15-year-old girl, requesting that she meet him for sexual activity. The “girl” was in fact an undercover detective.”
Marie McGovern, Deputy Attorney General, tried to convince the judge that Conte should remain locked up. McGovern read from the criminal complaint which said “Conte contacted a person he believed to be a 15-year-old girl on the classifieds, dating and personals website Doublelist. During chats with the girl, actually an officer, on DoubleList and Kik, Conte said she should pretend she was 18”. He also allegedly said he wanted to “get naked” with her after arranging to meet her.
The law firm representing Conte is Helmer Conley & Kasselman, PA. The lawyer at the proceedings, Barry J. Serebnick, argued that with the new bail reform measures from the state, it wouldn’t make any sense to hold him with no prior record. The lawyer told the judge that his client will fully cooperate with authorities.
The judge imposed certain restrictions on Conte today including turning over all firearms to the authorities and he must undergo a psychological evaluation.
Conte is also permitted to attend doctor appointments, meetings with his lawyer and court appearances but is to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18 unless during a supervised situation. He is also barred from using the internet.
Members of Conte’s family were present during the hearing today.
Howell Police Sargent Christian Antunez confirms that Conte has been suspended without pay.
Police Chief Andrew J. Kudrick posted his response to the initial arrest on Facebook. “It sickened me to learn one of my officers, a highly competent supervisor nonetheless and one that I have worked alongside with for many years on the SWAT team, not only defied my trust, but fellow officers as well,” Kudrick posted.
He added: “I offer my sincere apology to the community that we value and respect so deeply.”
Conte was arrested Thursday, September 6 by officers from the Toms River Police Department.
He will be prosecuted by the state Division of Criminal Justice and could face 10 years in state prison if convicted.