Ex-cop misses court conference in decades-old case

January 14, 2020 GMT

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A former New York police detective accused of sexually assaulting a girl at his vacation home in Vermont didn’t show up Monday to a scheduled court phone conference, prompting prosecutors to argue for an arrest warrant in the long-delayed case.

Leonard Forte was charged with felony sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl in Vermont in 1987. The then-Long Island resident was convicted in 1988 of three counts of sexual assault of a minor accusing him of committing various sexual acts on his daughter’s friend while the girl was a guest at the family’s vacation home in Landgrove.

The following year, a judge ordered a new trial saying the prosecutor had been too emotional.

The case was held up after Forte, who now lives in LaBelle, Florida, said a terminal illness prevented him from traveling to Vermont.

Forte’s public defender Susan McManus said state law doesn’t require a defendant to appear at status conferences and objected to the arrest warrant request, the Bennington Banner reported.

McManus also said a letter sent from her office to Forte last week provided him the wrong time for Monday’s hearing.

The judge decided to reset the status conference for Jan. 23 because Forte may have been confused about the scheduling.

“Justice has been delayed for far too long in this case,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said in a written statement Friday. “The state of Vermont is committed to seeking justice for the victim and bringing Mr. Forte to trial. The time is now.”

Forte’s public defender Susan McManus said in an email Saturday that she had only recently been assigned to the case and was not in a position to comment on the delays.

“It is obviously attracting a large amount of media attention. I would ask that people keep an open mind and not prejudge the case,” she wrote.