A 43-year-old Belleville man, who ran a youth-sports video production company out of his home, was indicted last week by a state Grand Jury on charges that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy on multiple occasions after meeting the teen on a social media site, N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced.
The accused, Ethan Z. Chandler, was initially arrested Dec. 1, 2016, when the State Police executed a search warrant at his apartment and seized computers, his cell phone and other potential evidence.
The alleged assaults on the 14-year-old came to light as the result of a State Police investigation that reportedly revealed that Chandler had communicated via a mobile chat app with another potential victim, an individual he believed to be a 13-year-old boy, attempting to lure him for a sexual encounter, authorities said.
The “boy” was actually an undercover detective.
The indictment was handed up Aug. 15 to Superior Court Judge Robert C. Billmeier in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Essex County, where Chandler will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
He is charged with the following crimes: Luring a child (2nd degree); sexual assault of a minor (2nd degree), and criminal sexual contact (4th degree).
The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000; fourth-degree, a sentence of up to 18 months and a $10,000 fine.
Authorities said Chandler operated a video production company that “involved filming sports events at schools across the region and brought him into close contact with children. He posted weekly video highlight packages of high school football on YouTube.”
The State Police undercover investigation began when detectives spotted an ad allegedly placed by Chandler on Craigslist soliciting oral sex with a young man.
A detective with the NJSP’s Digital Technology Investigations Unit responded to the ad, indicating he was a 13-year-old boy, and Chandler allegedly asked the “teen” to communicate with him using the mobile chat app Kik.
Authorities allege Chandler engaged in sexually explicit chats with the “teen” on Kik and asked to meet him in Woodbridge, where he believed the boy lived, but postponed the meeting at the last minute. During the online chats, Chandler also allegedly indicated that he had been sexually involved with a 14-year-old male.
Evidence seized during the Dec. 1 search of the accused’s Belleville home — conducted with the aid of the Belleville PD — assisted detectives in identifying and locating the 14-year-old, whom Chandler apparently met online on a social media site, authorities said. It is alleged that he brought the 14-year-old to his apartment and had sex with him on at least three occasions.
Chandler was rearrested on Dec. 7 as a result of the ongoing investigation. He was initially lodged in the Essex County Jail, but posted $200,000 bail and was released, subject to a sex offense restraining order.
Following last week’s indictment, Porrino stated: “The allegations against Chandler reveal a serial sexual predator who satisfied his deviant desires by targeting young boys through social media and online ads …
“We have no higher priority than protecting children from sexual predators, whether they lurk at the ball field, on social media, or in this case, both.”
— Karen Zautyk