BENNINGTON, Vermont (AP) — A retired investigator with New York’s Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice in his long-running child sexual assault case.
Leonard Forte, 79, was charged with two new felonies Wednesday, two weeks after the Bennington Superior Court found him physically capable to be retired on sexual assault charges going back over 30 years, the Bennington Banner reported.
Forte is accused of assaulting a 12-year-old girl in 1987 in his Landgrove vacation home. Forte was convicted in 1988 on three charges of sexual assault, however, the presiding judge granted a new trial claiming that the female prosecutor prejudiced the jury by being too emotional.
The state charged him again in 1997, but the trial has remained in limbo over the past two decades as Forte claimed to be too sick to travel and stand trial. Forte now lives in Florida. State prosecutors now allege that he lied about his condition to evade prosecution.
According to a legal filing, Forte submitted a letter on June 21, 2019, claiming to be the medical opinion of Dr. Shailaja Hegde, a letter that was submitted without Dr. Hegde’s knowledge or authorization. He also told the court that he was in hospice when he was actually discharged three months earlier, according to the filing.
Forte’s lead attorney entered not guilty pleas at Wednesday’s hearing. Public defender Susan McManus could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.
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