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‘Dying’ New York ex-cop who escaped child sex abuse trial for decades arrested for felony

Former New York cop Leonard Forte, who blocked a trial in Vermont for decades claiming to be on the verge of death, has been arrested in Florida on two counts relating to obstruction of justice.

Former New York cop who for decades delayed in court over allegations he repeatedly raped and assaulted his daughter’s 12-year-old friend has been arrested in Florida on related charges to the case.

Law enforcement officials arrested Leonard Forte, now 80, from his Labelle, Florida home on October 18. Forte, a former Suffolk County Attorney’s Office detective, faces two felony charges in Florida for using another person’s ID without consent and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a crime. The arrest warrant was based on a probable cause affidavit submitted by a special agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who had been assigned to assist the Vermont attorney general’s office with the pending criminal proceedings against Forte.

In 1988, a Vermont jury found Forte guilty of three counts of sexual assault allegedly committed while on a family ski vacation. Forte, who was 54 at the time, faced up to 60 years in prison.

However, the judge rejected the verdict. Prosecutors strongly disagreed with the decision and planned for a new trial. Before he could begin, Forte convinced prosecutors to delay the new trial because he said he had a health problem that likely meant he would be dead soon. It was a claim he repeated for the next 25 years, but has yet to come to fruition.

A 2019 USA TODAY investigation revealed how Vermont prosecutors mishandled the case – possibly the oldest open lawsuit where the accused is not a fugitive – and exposed Forte’s questionable claims about his health . Journalists used public records and social media posts of Forte’s family members to show that he was not receiving 24-hour medical attention and that he frequently traveled across the country, including to less than 200 miles from the Vermont courthouse where he said his illness was too severe for him to travel.

Following: “I’ve been dying for 25 years”: How a cop blocked his child sex abuse trial for decades

The Vermont Attorney General’s office revived the case against Forte after the USA TODAY report. Probable cause affidavit from Forte’s recent arrest details how Vermont officials sought help from Florida law enforcement and how the officer gathered information against Forte using tape cell phone, surveillance and documents obtained in a search warrant executed in September at Forte’s home.

The resulting felony charges in Florida concern Forte who submitted to the Vermont court undated letters from his former doctor stating that he was unable to travel and testify due to his medical condition. The Vermont attorney general’s office suspected Forte filed the same letter in 2016 and 2019, according to the affidavit.

Forte made two or more conflicting statements in court that the doctor who signed the letter was still her doctor in 2019 and that she sent the letter to him that year, the affidavit states. A statement from Forte’s doctor said she last examined him in 2017.

Forte was released the same day he was arrested on October 18 on $ 1,000 bail for each charge. He and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Vermont Assistant State Attorney Linda Purdy, who is the lead prosecutor in the case, said she could not comment specifically on Forte’s arrest in Florida.

“Florida was investigating whether any crimes had been committed in Florida relating to Mr. Forte’s actions in terms of contacting the Vermont courts,” Purdy said.

‘Dying’ New York ex-cop who escaped child sex abuse trial for decades arrested for felony

Despite claiming to be on the verge of death and hanging on a 24-hour oxygen tank, former NYPD Detective Leonard Forte was pictured in 2019 walking around the area. yard of his home in Labelle, Florida.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office, along with the Bennington County Attorney’s Office in the state of Vermont, charged Forte with two counts of obstructing justice over the summer. Forte was arraigned on these charges in July 2021.

The Vermont court ruled in June 2021 that Forte was physically able to stand trial, according to Purdy.

Forte and his defense attorney filed a motion to have the court order a mental competency test and additional psychological examinations related to Forte’s cognitive problems.

Purdy said the court is awaiting completion of those assessments.

The court held a recent status conference and said it was considering a March 2022 trial schedule for the Forte sexual assault case in 1988. A status conference on November 8 will review Forte’s mental skills and psychological exams.

Purdy said Forte did not need to be extradited to Vermont for obstruction of justice, as the court would pursue the 1988 case before proceeding with the obstruction charges.

Until June’s ruling that Forte was physically fit to stand trial, Vermont officials had previously failed to order Forte to return to the state for the child sex abuse trial. Authorities had also not held Forte responsible for failing to inform the court of his state of health every six months, which was a condition for agreeing to delay his prosecution.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Police Officer Who Blocked Child Sexual Abuse Trial for Decades Arrested in Florida

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