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As we celebrate the official start of Spring, the excitement of blooming flowers and warmer weather is just around the corner. But the higher temperatures at an earlier date could mean bad news for mother Earth. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more. Buzz60

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TRENTON - A former Williamstown man's game of strip poker with an 11-year-old girl and her 9-year-old sister in Alabama will keep him behind bars, New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Carl J. Garrison, 58 – convicted by a state Superior Court jury in 2013 of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child – was sentenced to 52 years in prison without the possibility of parole until he was in his 90s.

In 2015, he appealed the conviction, claiming the strip poker game with his then-girlfriend's daughter should not have been permitted as evidence. Garrison was not charged with crimes related to the poker game, he contended. The appellate court agreed with Garrison's argument that he was convicted unfairly. The state appellate court overturned the 2013 conviction and sentence and granted Garrison a new trial.

But Monday a state Supreme Court determined the alleged Alabama strip poker game Garrison admitted to police is admissible in court as evidence to the crimes with which he was charged, according to Supreme Court Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina's decision.

The decision reinstates the conviction and sentence.

Garrison was convicted of repeatedly abusing the girl at her mother's trailer in Williamstown and while on a trip to Alabama. The girl testified to about a dozen incidents of abuse in 2010, according to trial testimony.

In July 2010, the girls testified it was Garrison's idea to play the game. Garrison testified they all stripped to their underwear, but it "wasn't nothing major."

The girls testified abuse continued in New Jersey. They were removed from their mother's home by Child Protective Services due to an unrelated matter. They gradually revealed the abuse to their father, who brought the allegations to police in 2011.

In an interview with Monroe Township Police, Garrison denied the sexual assault, but admitted to the strip poker game, court records said.

The strip poker game, while not a charged offense, "supported an inference that defendant was aroused by young girls," the court determined. The inclusion of the game as evidence was "relevant to whether he had the motive and intent to commit the charged offenses," Fernandez-Vina said in the Supreme Court opinion.

Carly Q. Romalino; (856) 486-2476; cromalino@gannettnj.com

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