SARANAC LAKE - Franklin County Court Judge Robert Main Jr. has set a trial date in the case of People v. Michael Scaringe.
The former Saranac Lake Youth Center director is scheduled to stand trial beginning Dec. 13, nearly two years after he was arrested for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl who frequented the center. Judge Main issued an order setting the trial date on Wednesday.
Scaringe, 63, was arrested on New Year's Day 2010 for allegedly raping the girl at his home on Old Lake Colby Road on Dec. 23, 2009. He was initially charged by police with first-degree rape. A Franklin County grand jury later indicted Scaringe on a lesser count of second-degree rape, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Michael Scaringe on the day of his arrest, Jan. 1, 2010.
(State police photo)
In March of this year, Judge Main dismissed the second count of the indictment, which charged Scaringe with sexual abuse in the town of Harrietstown, because there wasn't sufficient evidence "with respect to the location of the alleged crime and the time frame within which it is alleged to have occurred."
Franklin County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty said he mistakenly wrote "Harrietstown" instead of "Tupper Lake" as the location for the second count when preparing the indictment for the grand jury. Delehanty then asked Judge Main for permission to either amend the indictment to fix the error or present the case to a new grand jury.
In a Sept. 22 decision, the judge allowed the prosecution to re-present the case to a new grand jury within 45 days. But on Friday, Delehanty wrote the judge saying the people "respectfully decline" to resubmit the case to another grand jury.
District Attorney Derek Champagne said Tuesday that his office is ready to go to trial. He said they decided it wasn't in the girl's best interest to go back to another grand jury.
"You reach a point when you're dealing with victims of alleged sexual assaults where you have to make decisions in their best interests," he said. "Is it in their interest to have this delayed another six months to a year (by representing the case)? Or is it in their best interest to only have them have to testify one more time instead of perhaps twice more."
Champagne also said the people plan to ask the judge to consider the incident that led to the second sexual abuse charge as a "prior bad act."
Asked about the prosecution's decision not to re-present the case, Barrett said the DA's office "wasted a considerable amount of time and resources" by asking to re-present, being granted that relief and then deciding not to pursue it.
"Clearly the prosecution has caused a considerable delay in this trial," he said. "As far as the defense, we're ready to go to trial and we've been ready for trial."
Barrett has said the girl's statements to police and her testimony about what happened that day are contradictory, making her an unreliable witness. He's also said police rushed to arrest his client without sufficient evidence.
Although Judge Main has scheduled Scaringe's trial to begin in December, Champagne said he thinks it could get pushed back because of a backlog of other cases scheduled to go to trial. Champagne said there are seven trial dates scheduled this month, but he only expects one to take place, with the rest getting bumped into November and December.
"Even though an order may come out setting it for November or December, don't be surprised if it doesn't hit until January, February or March," Champagne said Tuesday, before the judge set the trial date for Dec. 13.
Main's order also set the date for a series of pre-trial hearings including a Huntley hearing, which involves the admissibility of statements a defendant (in this case Scaringe) made to police. That hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21. Three other pre-trial hearings are scheduled for Dec. 13, prior to the start of the trial, to determine how much of Scaringe's past criminal history or other uncharged "bad acts" will be allowed to be presented to the jury.
In 1995, Scaringe was accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl when he worked as a substitute music teacher at a school in St. Petersburg, Fla., but he was acquitted in a jury trial the following year.
Scaringe's arrest in Saranac Lake came just over three months after he was hired as director of the youth center. He was working as a substitute teacher at St. Bernard's Catholic elementary school at the time of his arrest and had also applied for a substitute teaching job with the Saranac Lake Central School District, but was blocked from getting on the district's substitute list by Superintendent Gerald Goldman.
Scaringe, who went to school in Saranac Lake when he was known by the name Michael Josephson, was released from jail after less than a week when his family posted a $150,000 bail bond. He's been living with relatives in the Albany area, pending future court proceedings.