An Elizabeth man has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison for grabbing a young girl off the street as she walked to school in 2016 and sexually assaulting her before a good Samaritan quickly intervened, acting Union County Prosecutor Jennifer Davenport announced Wednesday.
Jair Ramirez, 43, was given the maximum allowable term by state Superior Court Judge Daniel R. Lindemann on Wednesday, following an approximately three-week trial that ended in February and a brief period of jury deliberation.
“Society needs to be free of the risk of this happening,” Lindemann said during the sentencing hearing.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on Friday, September 30, 2016, the then-10-year-old victim was walking to school on the 200 block of Orchard Street in Elizabeth when Ramirez approached her with his pants unzipped and genitals exposed, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor and Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit Supervisor Caroline Lawlor, who prosecuted the case.
Ramirez grabbed the victim and started trying to drag her down an alleyway between two houses when a resident of the neighborhood, an Elizabeth Public Schools Spanish teacher, noticed what was going on and started yelling loudly in an attempt to dissuade him and alert others to what was going on, Lawlor said.
Ramirez stopped what he was doing, threatened the woman, and then ran away. An Elizabeth Police Department investigation led by Detective Mike Gonzalez, later expanding to also involve the Special Victims Unit, identified Ramirez as a suspect in the case, and he was arrested shortly thereafter.
Special Victims Unit Detective Keyla Live assisted the prosecution at trial.
The victim, now 13, and her mother both attended Wednesday’s sentencing, when Lawlor read remarks from each into the record.
“She (the victim) was afraid that something even worse was going to happen to her … and didn’t know if she would ever see (her mother) again,” Lawlor said, adding that the young girl needed months of therapy and remains fearful of walking in public. “And mom thought this was a safe place to allow her 10-year-old daughter to walk to school.”
Lawlor also noted that Ramirez had an extensive criminal history that included crimes taking place at various times over the course of two decades, and both she and Lindemann praised the good Samaritan who intervened.
“We’re lucky that she was there,” Lawlor said, noting that “by fate, she had to move her car” at the precise moment the incident took place.
Ramirez was also ordered to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will remain under parole supervision for life.