Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino announced today that on Thursday, July 15, 2010 an Essex County Jury found Elise Munafo, age 24 of Kearney, New Jersey guilty of 2nd degree Aggravated Assault, 3rd degree Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose, 4th degree Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, 4th degree Aggravated Assault by Automobile, 4th degree Endangering an Injured Victim and 4th degree Obstructing Administration of Law.
On March 1, 2009, Munafo was at the XL Lounge located on New York Avenue and Jabez Street in Newark, New Jersey. After instigating a fight inside the bar with the victim, Erica Ortiz, Munafo and her boyfriend were removed from the club by the bouncers at 1:45 A.M. Munafo waited outside the XL Lounge for the victim. At approximately 3:00 A.M., after the XL Lounge had closed, the victim exited the bar and was again attacked by Munafo and her boyfriend. Several patrons came to the victim's defense, at which time Munafo and her boyfriend left the area. Moments later, they returned and Munafo ran Ms. Ortiz over with her car, and dragged her approximately 50 feet down New York Avenue and around the corner onto Jabez Street, where the victim was finally dislodged from underneath Munafo's car.
On March 11, 2009, Munafo turned herself into police with her attorney. She gave an audio taped statement. At trial, the State presented eyewitness testimony and introduced Munafo's statement to the jury. Assistant Prosecutor Marlyen Habib argued that Munafo lied in wait for the victim and intentionally hit the victim with her car. Assistant Prosecutor Habib also explained to jurors how in the days following the March 1st incident that the defendant tried to evade prosecution by junking the car used in the assault. Defense attorney, Dennis Cleary, argued that the whole incident was an accident.
Acting Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino commends the efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Marlyen Habib and Detectives Alissa Vinci and Diane Mavilla.
Munafo faces up to 15 years in prison for the offenses committed. Munafo is scheduled to be sentenced on September 8, 2010 by the Honorable Sherry Hutchins-Henderson, J.S.C., who presided over the trial.