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Judge: Man physically able to face 1980s sex assault case

July 2, 2021 GMT

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A former New York police detective who said poor health prevented him from traveling to Vermont to face allegations that he sexually assaulted a girl in the 1980s is physically able to stand trial, a judge ruled.

Leonard Forte, 79, was charged with felony sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl at his Vermont vacation home in 1987. He was convicted in 1988. A judge ordered a new trial the next year, saying the prosecutor had been too emotional.

The case was held up after Forte, who now lives in LaBelle, Florida, said his heart condition and other health problems prevented him from traveling. He’s appeared at hearings by phone for many years. He now faces obstruction of justice violations at a hearing Wednesday.

An email seeking comment was sent to Forte’s attorney Friday.

Forte’s lawyers argued that he was too sick to be retried and his assault charges should be dropped. They also requested a mental competency evaluation. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office said that Forte traveled multiple times in the last few years.

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Last week, Superior Court Judge Cortland Corsones ruled that although Forte suffers from serious medical conditions, “the medical evidence demonstrates that the defendant is not at substantial risk to his health or life, if he is required to travel to VT and to attend jury trial,” the Bennington Banner reported.

Corsone, who scheduled a July 26 hearing to discuss jury and trial dates, said measures could be taken to minimize risks to Forte’s health at trial, including shortening hours and increasing breaks. He said that Forte could appear remotely if both the defense and prosecution agree.