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JW abusers in the News
A local member reported this story that forgot to mention he is a JW
October 7, 2005
Page: A13


A Pequannock resident called police to tell them he
had foll
Sarah N. Lynch

A Pequannock resident called police to tell them he
had followed a man he says exposed himself to two
girls, and police arrived to charge the man with
committing a lewd act.

tyson trish / daily record

Donald Harper of Pequannock says he witnessed a man
who is accused of exposing himself to two young girls.
He called police while following the man to his home.
Police arrested the man.

Police:Thanks for help, but be careful

While Donald Harper's actions were extremely helpful
to police, Pequannock Lt. Dan Dooley said that when
citizens witness crimes, police do not recommend
chasing the suspects for an extended period.

"The speeds were definitely exceeded ... and (Harper)
puts himself as well as everyone else in danger if
he's pushing this car in traffic," Dooley said.

It's better for citizens who witness crimes to get the
license plate, make and model of the car. The rest
should be left up to police so they can investigate,
Dooley said.

"... It's not something we want to condone. As long as
we've got the proper information we need, we can
follow up from there," the lieutenant said.

tyson trish / daily record

Donald Harper of Pequannock says he witnessed a man
who is accused of exposing himself to two young girls.
He called police while following the man to his home.
Police arrested the man.

Good Samaritan takes action in Pequannock

911 call, chase lead to lewdness arrest

By Sarah N. Lynch

Daily Record

PEQUANNOCK --"What is your emergency?" the 911
dispatcher asked Donald Harper Tuesday night as Harper
clutched a cell phone and the steering wheel of his
pickup truck.

"I'm chasing somebody ... ," Harper blurted out.

"Hold on," the dispatcher responded.

It was a conversation the 31-year-old Pequannock
resident never expected to have, but there he was
chasing a black Pontiac along Route 23. Its driver,
Harper told police, had allegedly committed a lewd
act.

Harper's celI call and pursuit led to the arrest of
the man he was chasing.

Harper followed the Pontiac onto Route 287 and
eventually to Haskell where the driver, Stephen Sofis,
46, was charged by Pequannock police shortly
thereafter with lewdness.

Not-guilty plea

Sofis' lawyer, Demetrios Stratis of Wayne, told a
reporter Thursday that his client intends to plead not
guilty to the charge.

The chase sequence began when Harper and his neighbor
Phil Laprezioso were outside their First Street homes
around 8 Tuesday night chatting and smoking, when the
Pontiac pulled over to the side of their street.

It seemed slightly odd when the driver of the car
turned off the engine, but kept his headlights on, the
two men told a reporter Thursday night.

Ironically, the normally broken street light was
working, and between the headlights and the street
lamp, the men said, it was as "bright as daylight."

"We saw him get out of the car," Harper said. "He was
fumbling with his shorts and he went out to the
bushes. I thought, 'Well, when you gotta go, you gotta
go.'"

But to the men's surprise, the driver did not just
walk over to the bushes.

Instead, he appeared to be waiting for someone, Harper
said.

"He started to look suspicious," Harper said.

Shorts dropped

The neighbors saw two young girls, possibly in their
early teens, walking down Oak Street, which runs
perpendicular to First Street. As the girls got closer
to the intersection, the man allegedly faced the
street and suddenly dropped his shorts.

The man also allegedly appeared to be moving his hand
in front of his body, Harper said.

Laprezioso screamed "Hey!" at the man, who looked back
and then and pulled his pants up, according to the men
at the scene.

The two girls kept walking, and as the man got back
into his car, Harper said, it suddenly clicked in his
mind that this man needed to be caught.

"Phil, call 911!" Harper said before jumping into his
pickup truck and heading after the Pontiac.

"When (Phil) yelled, it was like it kicked in to go
and chase him and stop him," Harper said. "If I didn't
chase him and get the license plate number, who knows
what would have happened. He could have gotten away
and we wouldn't have found his house."

Girls gone

Laprezioso headed over to Oak Street hoping to find
the two girls, but they had already turned a corner
and were gone.

Meanwhile, Harper dialed 911 on his cell phone and
stayed on the phone with police, leading them about 10
miles away to Sofis'house on Haskell Avenue.

Police arrived at the home where they questioned
Sofis, brought him back to headquarters and
subsequently charged him.

When told about the incident, former Pequannock Police
Chief and Morris County Prosecutor's Office Director
William Montano said it was refreshing to hear about a
citizen who got involved.

"Probably what that guy did I would have done myself,"
he said. "Anytime a citizen becomes involved like
that, especially in this day of the cell phone age,
it's certainly useful for law enforcement to have
those extra eyes and ears."

Upgrade charge

The lewdness allegation was initially a disorderly
persons charge, but Pequannock Lt. Dan Dooley said
that will be upgraded to a fourth-degree indictable
crime.

The day he was arrested, Sofis waived his right to an
attorney and gave the police a written and a taped
statement, according to police. Dooley said that Sofis
had some inconsistencies in his story, but while he
did admit to being in the town the night of the
incident, he never admitted to the act itself.

Sofis's lawyer, Demetrios Stratis, said his client was
surprised by the accounts that appeared in local
newspapers.

"We believe that in the criminal justice system, the
truth will prevail in the end," Stratis said. "We're
denying the allegations, and we're pleading not
guilty.

Citizen's role

Dooley said the police were glad that Harper came
forward to report what he saw.

"His being involved definitely solidified the whole
case and made it easier for identification," the
lieutenant said.

But police are still hoping that the two young girls
who were on the street will come forward and tell them
what they saw.

While the girls acted as though they did not see
anything, Laprezioso said, he thinks there's "no way
they missed it."

"They played it smart by walking that way because they
didn't know we were there,"Laprezioso said. "That was
the second smartest thing they could have done.

"The first smartest thing would have been to scream,
yell and make a commotion."

Harper said that both girls were probably between the
ages of 12 and 16. One girl had long blonde hair and
was around 5 feet 7. The other was a brunette. Both
girls were wearing jeans, he said.

Harper said that while he's proud of what he did, he
does not feel like a hero.

Neighborhood vigilance

"I feel happy that I did a good thing," he said. "Phil
and I are always watching the neighborhood. When we
have our cigarettes, we keep an eye on the cars going
by."

The two men said they just hope that justice prevails
and they hope the two girls will come forward and help
make the case stronger.

If anyone has information about this incident, they
can reach the Pequannock Police at (973) 835-1700.

"They shouldn't be afraid to come forward,"Laprezioso
said. "If they come forward, only good will come of it
and we'll help prevent more incidents like this."

Sarah N. Lynch can be reached at (973) 428-6633 or
slynch@gannett.com.

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