A jury Thursday acquitted Alexandru Hossu, a friend of Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy, of child rape charges in a case that raised questions over Levy’s degree of involvement and spurred a related defamation case.
Hossu, 36, Levy’s former live-in personal trainer, had been jailed a year, accused of twice raping a 13-year-old girl in one night in 2010 at her Brewster home, where he lived while dating her mother.
Hossu, who was represented by Levy’s brother-in-law, Daniel Mentzer, cried and smiled after the verdict was announced in Putnam County Court in Carmel. A Romanian national, he remains in custody because of a federal immigration detainer.
He was acquitted of two counts of first-degree rape, two of second-degree rape and a charge of child endangerment.
"To anyone who watched this trial the verdict was a foregone conclusion," said Mentzer, who represented Hossu along with lawyer Richard Ferrante.
"To have to go through what that man went through is inhuman," Mentzer said. "Where does this man go to get his reputation back?"
Hossu was arrested last March by Putnam County sheriff’s deputies, who Mentzer claimed didn’t investigate the case until Hossu was already in custody. Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith and Levy have an ongoing feud and Levy later filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Smith over statements the sheriff made about the case.
The case attracted significant media attention after Levy, the son of TV’s “Judge Judy” Sheindlin, recused his office but then seemingly tried to influence the defense and reportedly disclosed grand jury information to one of Hossu’s prior lawyers — conduct Westchester County prosecutors deemed “potentially criminal.” Levy also paid tens of thousands of dollars at one point to fund Hossu’s defense. Despite requests by several politicians to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Levy’s conduct, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took no action.
Levy didn’t attend the trial, but his confidential assistant, Laurie Mainey, sat through most of it and an investigator from his office, Henry Lopez, attended portions of it. Levy’s stepbrother, Gregory Sheindlin, a lawyer and former prosecutor, also sat through most of the trial.
With no forensic evidence, prosecutors were left to rely heavily on the girl’s testimony.
"We were confident in our prosecution of this case as evidenced by the length of the jury’s deliberations and the fact that they were initially deadlocked," said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore. "We respect their verdict and appreciate their service."
Levy declined comment.
The accuser’s aunt, who testified at the trial, said the teenager was told of the verdict Thursday by a school social worker. The aunt said the teen was likely “very upset” inside but still processing the verdict.
"She’s a mature, intelligent young lady," she said. "She understands the power of reasonable doubt, but it doesn’t change her story."
Juror Debbie Silmon, 57, of Carmel, a coordinator of volunteer services at a psychiatric hospital, said the panel was 10-2 in favor of acquittal Monday, and 11-1 since then. She said one male juror held out, saying he found the teenager credible.
Silmon said jurors used a calendar and phone records to convince the holdout juror and rule out dates the attack could have happened.
"The man is innocent, period," she said. "I have no doubt whatsoever. He was 100 percent innocent. I thought she was a little liar. The sniffling, I think, was an act."
The girl had testified that Hossu choked her and raped her, leaving her in excruciating pain, with blood all over her bed.
The defense, however, had contended the girl’s account was implausible and that she had a number of potential motives to fabricate a story.
Juror Gwen Wilkinson, 32, of Brewster, a footwear buyer, said male jurors were asked during deliberations if they ever had sex for roughly three hours straight.
"They said it’s near impossible," she said.
As for the 17-minute controlled phone call the girl made to Hossu confronting him with the rape allegations as he was being secretly recorded by investigators, Wilkinson said, “I thought he showed he actually cared for the kids” by asking how the girl and her brother had been doing since their mother’s death. Hossu, she said, sounded “absolutely shocked” by the girl’s accusations.
"The jury took it really seriously, as they should have," said juror Bob Foss.
"They gave it the respect this entire case was due. No one took this lightly, in any case, and we worked the process as every one of us was supposed to."
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What the actual fuck.