The Camden County Assignment Judge continued in relevant part: Defendant’s argument pertaining to J.T.’s age at the time of the offense is unpersuasive. The child endangerment statute clearly defines a “child” as “any person under 18 years of age.” N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(1) (emphasis added). Importantly, this statute did not always apply to such victims. In fact, it was not until 2013 that the Legislature broadened the scope of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) by raising the age of statutorily protected children from sixteen to eighteen. This amendment clearly demonstrates that the Legislature intended for the statute to cover seventeen-year-old children like J.T. See State v. Sumulikoski, (2015) (dismissing on other grounds a child endangerment prosecution brought on behalf of seventeen-year-old victims). As J.T. was seventeen years and eight months old at the time of the offense, she was “under 18 years of age.” Thus, despite defendant’s assertions to the contrary, J.T. was precisely the type of victim envisioned by the Legislature when drafting N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4.
Defendant next argues that his prosecution should be dismissed under N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11(b) because the action complained of was a joke or cat call. This, too, is unpersuasive. For the reasons set forth hereinbelow, defendant’s message was neither, but rather constituted “sexual conduct” that “impaired or debauched” J.T.’s morals.
a. Sexual Conduct
In arguing that the message in question was nothing more than a joke or modern-day cat call, defendant contends that it was not “sexual conduct.” He concludes that “to include such a facially facetious statement in the same realm as the sexual abuse of young children was not the legislative intent of the child endangerment statute.”
An interesting fact recognized by psychiatrists and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is that it is normal to be sexually attracted to a post-pubescent minor. This is because post-pubescent individuals possess the physical treats that healthy adults are attracted to. It is clearly abnormal, however, to act on the natural attraction by pursuing a physical relationship with a minor. This includes minors that are seventeen years old.