Thomas Meier, a preschool teacher accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old at a Head Start office in Morris Township last month, would serve three years in prison if he accepts a plea deal offered on Monday.
Meier, 35, of Mt. Arlington, has entered a not guilty plea to accusations of sexual assault and sexual contact with a minor, both second-degree offenses. They allegedly occurred on Oct. 8, 2019, when a co-worker observed the incident, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
At a pre-indictment hearing Monday before Superior Court Judge Robert Hanna in Morristown, Assistant Prosecutor Reema Sethi Kareer offered to downgrade the charges to endangering the welfare of a child, a second-degree offense that would be treated as a third-degree crime at sentencing if Meier pleads guilty.
In addition to three years in jail, terms would include an “Avenel” evaluation at the state Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center to determine if the alleged act was “repetitive and compulsive,” which would make Meier a candidate for sex offender therapy.
Additionally, Meier would be required to forfeit his teaching license, register as a sex offender under Meghan’s Law, and submit to lifetime parole supervision.
Meier stood quietly and did not speak during Monday’s brief proceeding in the Morris County Courthouse.
He and his attorney, Blair Zwillman, are scheduled back in court on Dec. 16 to answer whether Meier will agree to the terms. It Meier rejects the deal, the case will go to a grand jury, Zwillman said.
“We’re going to evaluate the state’s proffer and continue our conversation with the prosecutor,” Zwillman said after the hearing.
Meier is a 2002 graduate of Morristown High School and a former summer lifeguard for Morris Township. He’s been teaching for about 10 years, with nothing more serious than a traffic ticket on his record, his lawyer said.
“He’s a good person. He’s worked with kids for many years. Parents and children like him,” Zwillman said.
Officials at Head Start of Morris County in Morris Township declined to discuss Meier’s job status, referring inquiries to the Dover office. Officials there could not immediately be reached for comment.
UPDATE: Meier no longer is employed by Head Start, Susan O’Donnell, executive director of the Head Start Community Program of Morris County, said Tuesday via email.