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Jury begins deliberations in Scaringe rape trial

Judge testifies on behalf of ex-SL Youth Center director

June 20, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer (cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

MALONE - Michael Scaringe's fate is now in the hands of a Franklin County Court jury.

A panel of six men and six women began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of the former Saranac Lake Youth Center director, who's accused of having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl who frequented the youth center at his then-Old Lake Colby Road home on Dec. 23, 2009. Scaringe, now 63, faces charges of second-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Before the jury received its instructions from St. Lawrence County Surrogate Court and Acting State Supreme Court Judge Kathleen Rogers, who's handling the trial, it heard closing statements from defense attorney Mary Rain and Jack Delehanty, the county's chief assistant district attorney.

Article Photos

Scaringe

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'Smoke and mirrors'

"There are so many inconsistencies in (the girl's) story and none in Michael's," Rain told the jury, repeating the conflicting statements and testimony from the girl about everything from how long the two had sex to where they went before Scaringe took the girl home. Rain held up naked photos of Scaringe to the jury that showed a "huge bulge" where he has a hernia, which the girl wasn't initially able to identify during a preliminary hearing.

"Stevie Wonder couldn't miss that," Rain said.

Rain said the girl was coached by her counselor and prosecutors on what to say, and that her version of events and the timeline of what happened changed once police started looking into the case.

"She heard these facts, and she adjusted her story to fit the physical evidence," Rain said.

Although Scaringe and the girl exchanged numerous text messages, Rain said there were "no touching inferences in those texts - not one."

Rain also described the prosecution's child sexual abuse expert as a "witness for hire," and said the sexual assault syndrome he described is "hogwash" and not based on any scientific theory. She also said the nurse who examined the girl had "already formed a conclusion" that the girl had been sexually assaulted before she examined her.

Rain portrayed the alleged victim as savvy and said she was trying to get sympathy from people, referencing Facebook posts she made on the one- and two-year anniversaries of the alleged sexual encouter on Dec. 23. The attorney also noted that there's no physical evidence to corroborate the alleged victim's version of events.

"The fact is that they seized all those items in his home and in his trash, and they came up with nothing to corroborate a sex act between her and Michael," she said. "This is a smoke and mirrors case. They want you to look away from the evidence and testimony they don't have and have you convict (Scaringe) on your sympathies."

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'Motive and opportunity'

Delehanty described it as a "motive and opportunity" case in his summation.

He said Rain analyzed the case to the jury "as if the complaining witness were an adult," not an adolescent girl going through "emotional angst" because of a troubled home life.

Delehanty said the girl's initial lies about what had happened to her, including her claim that she was forcibly raped, were part of a "naturally flowing" disclosure that's common for young children who are victims of child sex abuse, referring frequently to testimony from Dr. Don Lewittes about the stages of child and adolescent sex abuse syndrome. Delehanty also encouraged the jury to use common sense in thinking about how a child in the girl's position would handle the situation.

"This is not as complex as Ms. Rain would make you believe," he said. "It's a case involving motive, opportunity and timeline."

Delehanty said the girl was manipulated to keep secrets, pointing to an email message Scaringe sent the girl telling her only to communicate with him via text message. He also showed a picture of the two alone in the office of the youth center as evidence that Scaringe tried to isolate the girl.

Delehanty also said Scaringe was deceptive in his interview with police. He repeatedly encouraged the jury to listen to a recording of the interview.

Delehanty gave a timeline for events on Dec. 23, based on different statements and testimony, that he said provided Scaringe and the girl with "ample opportunity to engage in the acts he's accused of in the indictment."

Delehanty also said Scaringe had time to get rid of any physical evidence - such as washing his sheets - that police could have used. Although he admitted some of the prosecution's evidence is circumstantial - like the text messages the two exchanged - he said a sexual assault nurse found contusions the girl had on her cervix and vaginal opening that were consistent with "forced sexual trauma."

"That is sufficient forensic evidence for you to convict this defendant," Delehanty said. "You have sufficient proof to consider this motive and opportunity case, to make your own assessment of the evidence."

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Other witnesses

Before the defense rested its case, the jury heard testimony from an Essex County judge who described himself as an old friend of Scaringe's.

Richard Meyer, who lives in Saranac Lake and is also an acting state supreme court justice, said he met Scaringe when the defendant worked at his father's drug store in Saranac Lake. Meyer said he knew him then as Michael Josephson, Scaringe's stepfather's last name. He told the jury that Josephson changed his name to Scaringe at some point because he had reconnected with his natural-born father.

In response to questions from Rain, Meyer described Scaringe as a "very kind and nice person." He said the two became friends when Meyer was in seventh grade and Scaringe was a senior in high school. They were in band together; Scaringe played tenor saxophone and Meyer played alto sax.

Franklin County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty asked Meyer if he recommended youth center officials hire Scaringe.

"No, I did not," Meyer said.

After his friend was arrested, Delehanty asked Meyer if he ever contacted Scaringe's then-defense-attorney Brian Barrett to suggest "a defense strategy."

Meyer said he didn't reach out to Barrett, but he said Barrett may have contacted him.

Asked by Delehanty if he sent Barrett a fax containing "a defense strategy" for Scaringe, Meyer said "I sent him a fax, yes," but didn't elaborate, and the issue didn't come up again.

Meyer declined to speak to the Enterprise after he was dismissed from the witness stand. He then walked down the hallway to another part of the Franklin County Courthouse where he was presiding over a state Supreme Court trial.

Another witness for the defense testified Tuesday morning. James Gibson Sr., of Saranac Lake, the former boyfriend of the alleged victim's mother, recalled speaking with the girl and her mother about the Scaringe case. He said the girl's mother "made it clear they could close the Getaway (the youth center)" and "could own everything that Michael had."

Gibson also said he had conversations with the girl's family, her counselors and a probation officer about the girl's "reputation for truthfulness" in the community, saying "she's been known to lie."

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Deliberations

The jury got the case around 2:30 p.m. After an hour-and-a-half behind closed doors, jurors were dismissed for the day. Deliberations resumed at 8:30 a.m. this morning.

 
 

 

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