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Jury: Scaringe guilty on all three counts (2nd update)

Prosecution says justice was served; defense attorney plans appeal

June 21, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

MALONE - A Franklin County Court jury found Michael Scaringe guilty of second-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child on Wednesday.

The unanimous verdicts against the former Saranac Lake Youth Center director were read by the jury foreperson just before 2 p.m. The panel of six men and six women deliberated for roughly six hours over two days before reaching a decision.

Scaringe had been charged with having sexual intercourse with a then-13-year-old girl at his home on Old Lake Colby Road in Saranac Lake on Dec. 23, 2009. Scaringe, who was 61 at the time, had met the girl through the youth center.

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Wearing a light grey sport coat, a blue tie and black pants, Scaringe sat expressionless at the defense table, with his hands folded in front of him, as the guilty verdicts were read.

Jack Delehanty, Franklin County's chief assistant district attorney, then asked St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court and Acting State Supreme Court Judge Kathleen Rogers to revoke Scaringe's $150,000 bond and remand him to the Franklin County Jail, pending completion of pre-sentencing report.

Mary Rain, Scaringe's defense attorney, argued that Scaringe should continue to be free on bond. She said he has made every court appearance and never attempted to flee to Florida, where he has a home.

But Rogers granted Delehanty's request and remanded Scaringe to jail without bail. Again showing no emotion, Scaringe was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by court security officers. His older sister, sitting in the front row of the gallery, held her hands to her face and cried.

Scaringe faces a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years in prison when he's sentenced on Aug. 1.

"I think the jury paid close, careful attention to the proof as it came in," Delehanty told the Enterprise after the verdict was read. "I think they listened to the testimony of the witnesses that we called, and I believe they carefully followed the judge's instructions and did justice today."

Delehanty said he contacted the victim's mother to inform her that Scaringe had been found guilty.

"She's grateful for the verdict and tearful over the verdict when I told her about it," he said.

Rain said Scaringe and his family were extremely disappointed and upset with the decision.

"They had expected a better outcome," she said. "They were prepared for the worst, but obviously it's still upsetting."

Asked why Scaringe didn't show any emotion, Rain said he was "overwhelmed."

"As he described it, his head was so full of thoughts that he couldn't think of anything in particular," she said.

The guilty verdicts are the culmination of a high-profile, two-and-a-half year case that began with the arrest of Scaringe on New Year's Day 2010. The news sent shockwaves through the community, as Scaringe was not only director of the youth center at the time, but had been a substitute teacher at St. Bernard's Catholic elementary school and had applied to be a substitute in the Saranac Lake Central School District.

Scaringe was initially charged with first-degree rape, as the girl had claimed she was "forcibly" raped. She later changed her story and admitted in a statement to police that she knew the two were going to have sex at his house that day and was "semi OK" with it. Scaringe was later indicted on a charge of second-degree rape.

He originally stood trial in January, but just two witnesses into the proceeding, a mistrial was declared after Scaringe fired Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, who had been his lead counsel, and hired Rain, who had been Barrett's co-counsel, to replace him.

Jury selection in Scaringe's new trial finally began June 11, and witness testimony started two days later. Roughly 20 witnesses took the stand including the girl and her mother, several state police investigators and a sexual assault nurse examiner, among others.

The prosecution characterized Scaringe as a child sexual predator who groomed and took advantage of a troubled young girl. The defense repeatedly attacked the credibility of the victim, drawing the jury's attention to conflicting information in her multiple statements to police and her testimony.

Delehanty said he believes the testimony given by Dr. Don Lewittes, an expert in the field of child and adolescent sexual abuse, was key in helping the jury understand how a young girl in such a situation could change her version of events.

"Children testify differently as witnesses, and I think they recognized that," he said. "The holes in this case were on account of the age of the complaining witness, period. Once they came to realize that, I think they understood she was not attempting to deceive them."

The prosecution also called to the stand four women who said Scaringe had sexually abused them in the 1970s when he was a music teacher in the Tupper Lake Central School District. Rain, who had fought against allowing that testimony, said she thinks it had an undue influence on the jury's decision.

"When you hear from four other people saying they were assaulted by someone, and then you have someone who also says, 'I was assaulted by that same person,' I don't think any jury is going to be able to get beyond that, even though the court instructed them to do that," Rain said.

Rain said an appeal is planned based on the admission of that testimony and speedy trial issues.

This was the last case for Delehanty, who is retiring after nearly two decades as a prosecutor. He had planned to step down in May but returned to finish this case.

While he said the Scaringe case wasn't one of the biggest he's ever handled, Delehanty said it's been one of the longest-running. He described the outcome as "gratifying."



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