(BELLEVILLE) – A Belleville man will spend up to 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.

According to the Essex County Prosecutor's office, Jose Santana, now 50 years old, assaulted the girl on multiple occasions when she was visiting him and his wife at their home.

Santana was sentenced Friday to 35 years behind bars. He must serve 85% of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

“Hopefully, this will give closure to the family and this little girl will be able to rest easy knowing her brave actions will prevent him from hurting her or anyone else in the future,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Peter C. Polidoro, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez.

“I hope that this sentence of 35 years sends a clear message that sexual abuse of a child will not be tolerated and will be punished severely,” Gutierrez added.

According to officials, Santana forced the girl to watch child pornography while the sexual assaults occurred. Officers discovered child pornography on Santana's computer while executing a search warrant at his home.

Santana was convicted in November 2019, but sentencing was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. He has been incarcerated awaiting sentencing.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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