MAYS LANDING — An Egg Harbor Township man charged in several sexual assaults in Atlantic City is a loving father and loyal husband, his wife said at a bail hearing Thursday.
Hiten A. Patel, 36, of the township’s Cardiff section, has been jailed on $1 million cash bail since his arrest Aug. 2, after, according to the charges, he lured a 21-year-old Pennsauken woman into his car by claiming to be a detective, then raped her. He was later charged in four other attacks.
Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury lowered the bail to $750,000, allowing for a bond, which means the family could put up 10 percent of that.
Defense attorney Joseph Levin said outside the courtroom that there were 400 people willing to contribute to free Patel. That could likely happen by the end of the day today, Levin said.
In a rare move at a bail-review hearing, Patel’s wife was allowed to address the court.
“He’s a very good husband,” Bhavana Patel told the judge in asking that he be able to come home. “He’s a kind, loyal, hardworking and supportive man.”
She said she believes in the justice system: “We will fight this battle together. ... I proclaim he’s innocent.”
Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer — who said he was standing in for the prosecutor in the case — said the state expects to take the case to a grand jury in about four to five weeks, after DNA results are expected to be back from the state lab.
“There is physical evidence in the case,” Flammer said.
That may include napkins taken from Patel’s van. The victim told investigators that Patel used napkins to wipe down her and himself after the attack, according to information previously released in court.
Atlantic City detectives, who are leading the case, are still interviewing two other women who may be victims, Flammer said.
All of the victims worked as prostitutes, Levin told the judge, saying that each incident “started out as a normal prostitution case, let me put it that way.”
Twenty of Patel’s family members and friends filled the courtroom on his behalf Thursday. Levin also submitted several character letters to the judge, along with 400 signatures of support.
DeLury set several strict conditions if Patel is released, including GPS monitoring and house arrest, which would allow for him to leave the home only under court order. He can have no contact with the alleged victims or witnesses, and must surrender his passport.
After Patel’s arrest in August, police charged him in the June 27 abduction of a 31-year-old Ventnor woman who said Patel attempted to rape her at gunpoint, but she was able to escape.
Following media reports of Patel’s arrest, a 26-year-old woman came forward saying she too had been a victim, and that her assailant portrayed himself as a law enforcement officer.
Two others were later added, including one dating to April 2011, the date of Patel’s only previous criminal arrest.
Patel was pulled over after a woman called 911 to report an attack, Flammer told the judge. During the stop, police found what appeared to be a gun, but it turned out to be fake. The charges were dropped when police could not locate the alleged victim. A fake gun was also found during the August arrest.
Charges against Patel include at least three counts each of aggravated sexual assault and impersonating a police officer, along with kidnapping, criminal restraint, two counts of attempted aggravated sexual assault and weapons offenses.
The investigation is being led by Detective Al Herbert. The FBI is assisting.
Anyone with information about the attacks or who may have been a victim is asked to call Atlantic City police at 347-5766.
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