SARANAC LAKE - Attorneys on both sides say they're ready for the new trial of Michael Scaringe Jr., which was scheduled to begin this morning at the Franklin County Courthouse in Malone.
The former Saranac Lake Youth Center director faces charges of second-degree rape, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl who frequented the center two-and-a-half years ago.
"We've been doing the same thing we'd do for any trial," Mary Rain of Ogdensburg, Scaringe's defense attorney, told the Enterprise Friday. "We're looking at all the evidence, preparing for cross-examination of the witnesses and going forward. We're ready."
"I think it's important for the victim to have some resolution, to get this before a jury," said Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne. "It's been unfortunate that sometimes the system takes so long, and there can be so many hiccups along the way. It's not the way we want our system to work for victims out there."
Scaringe is accused of raping the girl, with whom he became acquainted as director of the youth center, at his home on Old Lake Colby Road in December 2009. He was 61 at the time.
He originally stood trial in January, but just two witnesses into the proceeding, County Court Judge Robert Main Jr. dismissed the jury and declared a mistrial at the request of the defense. The move came after Scaringe had 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.
Due to a backlog of county court cases awaiting trial, Scaringe's case was pushed back another five months and is now being handled by St. Lawrence County Surrogate and Acting State Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Rogers. Jury selection in his new trial was scheduled to get under way at 10 a.m. today.
Rain described the last five months as a "sigh of relief" that have allowed her to get fully up to speed on the case. She also said she's pleased she'll be working with Rogers, whom she called "a familiar face."
Asked if there's been any talk of resolving the case by a plea agreement over the last few months, Rain said there hasn't.
"Michael has maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings," she said.
The prosecution's case is being handled by Chief County Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty, with assistance from ADA Glenn MacNeil. This will be the last case for Delehanty, who plans to retire at the conclusion of the trial. He had actually planned to step down in May.
"Jack ended up delaying his retirement since he had been working with the victim since the preliminary hearing," Champagne said. "He felt it was important, and I agreed, for the victim to have as little change as possible as far as people interacting with her and asking her questions. He took three weeks off, and then he's been back for about two weeks now, finishing his preparations for the trial."
When the new trial begins in earnest, the jury will have to decide whether Scaringe's accuser, who initially lied about what happened at his home that day, is now telling the truth. She initially told police that she had been forcibly raped by Scaringe, only to later admit, after Scaringe's arrest, that she knew the two were going to have sex and was "semi-OK with it."
In opening statements at his January trial, Brian Barrett, Scaringe's attorney at the time, said the girl had made up a "titanic lie" and said police and prosecutors have become pawns in her deceit. Barrett said Scaringe befriended the girl because she was dealing with a troubled home situation and needed help.
The other major issue in the case is that the prosecution plans to present decades-old allegations that Scaringe had sexual relations with several 12- to 14-year-old girls in the 1970s, when he was a music teacher in the Tupper Lake Central School District and went by a different last name, Josephson. Judge Main had allowed the prosecution to use these and other "prior bad acts" at Scaringe's trial.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.