SARANAC LAKE - One of the most closely followed criminal cases of the past three years was finally resolved in June, when Michael Scaringe Jr. was found guilty of having sex with a 13-year-old girl he met through the Saranac Lake Youth Center, where he served as director.
At his sentencing two months later, the former Saranac Lake man was given the maximum term of seven years in prison by Judge Kathleen Rogers, who called him "a parent's worst nightmare."
Scaringe, who is now 64, 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.
Michael Scaringe and his lawyer, Mary Rain, talk outside the Franklin County Courthouse in Malone on June 13, following the first day of witness testimony in his trial.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The news sent shockwaves through the community. 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 Mary 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.
The trial also featured 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. Rain, who had fought against allowing that testimony, later said she believes it had an undue influence on the jury's decision to convict Scaringe.
Among the witnesses Rain called to the stand was Essex County and acting state Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer, who described himself as a friend of Scaringe's since the two went to school together in Saranac Lake in the mid 1960s. Meyer admitted under cross-examination that he sent Barrett a fax that the prosecution said contained a defense strategy, a potential violation of state judicial ethics laws that prompted a review by the county District Attorney's Office. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct hasn't said publicly whether it's investigating Meyer's involvement in the case.
Scaringe didn't testify during the trial, but a juror later told the Enterprise that he felt Scaringe lied and was evasive in his more-than-two-hour interview with state police investigators, describing that as one of several factors that led to the jury's decision to convict him. Scaringe was found guilty of second-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
At his sentencing Aug. 23, Rogers described the crime as "calculated" and said Scaringe 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."
The Scaringe trial was the last case handled by Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty, of Tupper Lake, who retired after nearly two decades as a prosecutor. He described the outcome as "gratifying."
Scaringe is serving his sentence at Franklin Correctional Facility in Malone. His earliest possible conditional release date is June 12, 2018.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.