MALONE - Calling him "a parent's worst nightmare," a judge sentenced Michael Scaringe Jr. to the maximum term of seven years in state prison Friday for having sex with a 13-year-old girl he met through the Saranac Lake Youth Center, where he served as director.
"He had unprotected sex with her," said St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court and Acting State Supreme Court Judge Kathleen Rogers. "He could have left her pregnant. He is a parent's worst nightmare - someone in a position of authority who finds and cultivates a vulnerable person, who leaves them exposed to sexual acts that are inappropriate for them."
Scaringe, 64, was convicted of second-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child following a six-day jury trial in June. He was arrested on New Year's Day 2010 for having sexual intercourse with the girl at his home on Old Lake Colby Road in Saranac Lake on Dec. 23, 2009.
A Franklin County sheriff’s deputy puts Michael Scaringe Jr. into a police car after he was sentenced Friday to seven years in state prison for having sex with a 13-year-old girl at his home in Saranac Lake in December 2009.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Wearing a orange Franklin County Jail uniform, Scaringe shuffled into the courtroom just after 9 a.m. Friday, his hands and feet bound in shackles. He was bald-headed, without the wig that he has worn before he was jailed. Scaringe sat down at the defense table next to his attorney, Mary Rain of Ogdensburg, and looked back into the gallery where his sister was sitting. Others in the gallery included Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne and former county Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty, the lead prosecutor on the case who has since retired.
Scaringe faced between two and seven years behind bars. Glen MacNeill, who was recently appointed to chief ADA, asked the judge to give Scaringe the maximum, saying he took advantage of a vulnerable child.
"His actions left emotional scars on that child that may affect her for the rest of her life," MacNeill said.
MacNeill said no one representing the victim had asked to speak at Scaringe's sentencing.
Rain picked apart the pre-sentencing investigation report on Scaringe, asking the judge to disregard a pair of letters attached to it, including one that Champagne later told the Enterprise was from a family member of Scaringe, whom he declined to identify, that accused him of sexual abusing him or her. Rogers said she wouldn't be influenced by the letters in sentencing Scaringe because they weren't connected directly to this case.
Rogers also agreed not to take into consideration charges Scaringe faced in 1995, which were referenced in the pre-sentencing report, for allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl at a school in St. Petersburg, Fla. where he worked as a substitute band teacher. He was acquitted of those charges at trial.
Rain asked Rogers to sentence Scaringe, who declined to speak on his own during the proceeding, to the minimum of two years. She said Scaringe has no prior criminal convictions, has been employed his entire life and that he has relationships with people in the community, including Essex County Court Judge Richard Meyer, who appeared as a defense witness during the trial.
"Very rarely does a defendant get a maximum sentence for the first conviction ever in his lifetime," Rain said.
Rogers noted that a plea offer of five years was extended to Scaringe before the trial. She said she indicated at the time, and still believes, that five years "was far too lenient, and it was very difficult for me to swallow," but said she would have allowed it to spare the victim from having to testify.
In handing down Scaringe's sentence, Rogers talked broadly about how raising and protecting children is the most important thing we do as a community.
"We have schools, and we send them there, telling them not to get into the car with strangers because we fear bad things happening to them," Rogers said. "We send them to church schools so they can be exposed to good adults and learn to live a good and moral life, and be good citizens. ... We send them to youth centers so they won't hang around together or alone unsupervised by adults. And in each of those situations, time and again, we find the wolf is in with the lambs. We find people in a position of authority who take advantage of a vulnerable person."
Rogers described Scaringe's crime as "calculated" and said he worked "inch by inch" to gain the girl's trust by giving her gifts, buying her a phone, taking her to cheerleading and befriending her mother, whom Rogers said was "not overseeing her child" and was "a perfect mother for this situation.
"The Legislature did give me a wide range," Rogers said of the state body that makes laws. "I believe they gave me the maximum because a person in authority should not be able to do this."
Scaringe was sentenced to concurrent terms of seven years for the rape charge and one year each for the sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child counts. He was also sentenced to seven years of post-release supervision, more than $1,300 in fines and fees, and a 10-year order of protection was issued for the victim.
Later, Rain told the Enterprise that both she and Scaringe expected he would get the maximum, based on what Rogers had said before the trial.
"The judge had indicated that the five-year offer before the trial - she said, 'You know, I'm not bound by that five years if he goes through a trail,'" Rain said. "That was a clear indication to me that she planned on giving him more."
Scaringe has 30 days to file an appeal. Rain said she thinks her client will have several solid appeal issues, including speedy trial claims and issues surrounding testimony from 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. That testimony was only supposed to be used in a limited scope, but Rain thinks it had an undue influence on the jury.
Champagne said his office is pleased to get the maximum sentence.
"It's been a tragic case for everyone," he said. "It's essentially taken us 37 years to bring this man to justice. Thirty-seven years ago there were the exact same allegations in the school district where he was in a similar position of trust. I'm proud of my staff for putting so much effort into this prosecution and obtaining a just and appropriate verdict, and a proper sentence.
"I think the judge hit the nail on the head. These are places we send our children to be safe, and to betray that trust, really affects the whole community. As a parent myself, and in talking to a lot of parents out there, they're asking the same question. Where can we send our children to be safe?"
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.