Second Justice Center sex abuse case tossed, lawyers consider implications
August 04, 2017 06:11 PM
A second sexual abuse case prosecuted by the Justice Center was dismissed by an Albany County judge last week on the grounds the prosecutor was unconstitutional. Now lawyers are questioning what the decisions could mean for four years worth of convictions by the state agency created by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
32-year-old Justin Hope was charged with three felonies. The social worker was accused of having oral sex at his Guilderland apartment with a developmentally disabled 17-year-old resident of the Rensselaer County facility where he worked.
Albany County Judge William Carter dismissed the case, siding with Hope's lawyer Lee Kindlon.
"We said, you just can't have a state agency declaring themselves to be prosecutors, running around prosecuting anybody they see fit," said Lee Kindlon, defense attorney.
It was similar to Judge Thomas Breslin's decision in the March dismissal of the Justice Center case against Marina Viviani. She was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student.
The lawyers argued the Justice Center, a 2013 creation of Governor Cuomo, clashes with the state constitution. The constitution allows elected officials like district attorneys and the attorney general to be prosecutors.
Kindlon thinks these decisions could have far-reaching effects if they make it to the state's highest court.
"Everybody who has ever been prosecuted may have the opportunity to go back and have their convictions looked at and overturned. These are people who right now if they stand convicted are probably registered sex offenders – could be in state prison," said Kindlon.
That's one of the things advocates for the disabled like Michael Carey are worried about.
Carey has been fighting for more oversight of people caring for the disabled, since his disabled son was suffocated and killed ten years ago.
"It's just the beginning, about every case that was handled outside the district attorneys' auspices is going to be thrown out," said Carey.
Carey has a bill to put crimes against the disabled back in the hands of the police and the district attorneys. He says it had the support of 75 percent of state lawmakers, but leadership never gave them a chance to vote last session.
The Justice Center declined to comment.
Updated: August 04, 2017 06:11 PM
Created: August 04, 2017 12:54 PM
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