MAYS LANDING -- Jurors deliberating the sexual assault case against an Egg Harbor Township man must vote on the charges as they stand, the judge ruled.

Hiten Patel, 35, is accused of assaulting seven women in Atlantic City during a five-week span in the summer of 2012.

After about four hours of deliberations, jurors sent a note to Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury asking if they could vote on attempted assault rather than aggravated sexual assault in one of the alleged attacks.

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L.C. told police Patel attempted to assault her some time in July 2012. As she tried to flee his car, she said, the man penetrated her with his finger as he tried to stop her.

During his closing argument Tuesday, defense attorney James Leonard Jr. pointed out L.C.'s interview with police in which she first said Patel grabbed her by the hips to get her back into his vehicle.

Upon further questioning from Detective Al Herbert, she said that the man's finger went into her during the struggle. Eventually, L.C.escaped after a man outside saw her. She told him not to call police and that she was OK.

Leonard objected to allowing the lesser charge, and the judge agreed.

Jurors are deciding on 33 criminal counts against Patel, including multiple sexual and attempted sexual assaults, possession of an imitation firearm and impersonating a law enforcement official.

Some of the women claim Patel used his identification lanyard for his work as a contractor at the William J. Hughes Technical Center to convince them he was a detective and lure them into his vehicle.

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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