Monmouth County man convicted of stalking teen tennis player from Union County

A Monmouth County man has been convicted of stalking a Union County teenager during a period of about three and a half years, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.

A Union County jury needed less than an hour of deliberation to find 36-year-old Joseph Gellene of West Long Branch guilty of fourth-degree stalking following a three-day trial before state Superior Court Judge Scott J. Moynihan.

In the autumn of 2007, Gellene was hired as a tennis coach for the then 14-year-old victim, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Jill O’Malley, who prosecuted the case. This initial contact was followed by inappropriate communications that included hundreds of text messages and the presentation of gifts such as a free massage, O’Malley said.

Even after being fired as the victim’s tennis instructor and advised to cease communication with him, Gellene continued to send text messages and place phone calls to the teenager, eventually going as far as attending the same church as him and his family, O’Malley said. The criminal conduct lasted into 2011.

Gellene had been arrested for a similar set of circumstances in Wall Township in 2009. In that case, Gellene was accused of harassing a 14-year-old boy and sending him a large volume of inappropriate texts. He eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser municipal offense in that case.

Sentencing in the most recent case has been set for May 16, at which time Gellene will face up to 18 months in state prison.