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Former Franklin County youth center director headed to prison for sex abuse conviction

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MALONE - A former Saranac Lake youth center director was sentenced to state prison time Friday for sexually abusing a then-13-year-old girl who frequented the center in 2009.

Michael Scaringe, 63, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the second-degree rape conviction, the maximum term allowed by law, and concurrent sentences of one year in county jail each for second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child counts.

Acting Franklin County Court Judge Kathleen M. Rogers issued a no-contact stay-away order of protection in favor of the victim that is in effect until 2022. Scaringe was also ordered to undergo seven years of post-release supervision and pay $1,425 in fees and surcharges, including a Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) fee, a supplemental sex crime fine, and a DNA registration fee.

A Franklin County Court jury determined after listening to testimony in the case that Scaringe had sex with a 13-year-old girl on Dec. 23, 2009 at his Saranac Lake home. He knew her from the then-named Getaway youth center in Saranac Lake, where he briefly worked as executive director. The victim testified that prior to their having sex he lavished her with gifts and attention, including a prepaid cellphone with minutes that they used for secret communication. She believed she was his girlfriend and that they were in love, she testified.

The verdict came as no surprise to Scaringe, according to his attorney.

“I had expected the max [sentence], and Michael expected the max,” defense attorney Mary Rain of Ogdensburg said after the sentencing.

Appearing in court shackled, dressed in an orange county jail jumpsuit, and lacking his distinctive toupee, Scaringe declined to speak on his own behalf when Judge Rogers offered the chance.

“A person of authority should not be able to do this,” Judge Rogers said.

She referred to him as “a wolf among lambs” and “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

The judge said the doctors who have been treating the victim have reported she is showing signs of having been mentally impacted by Scaringe’s abuse.

“There is a sexualized aspect to her interactions [with adult males],” Judge Rogers said.

The judge also admonished Scaringe for the effect the court proceedings had on the victim, such as being forced to relive the ordeal and being stigmatized in the community.

“She is left in the position of being confronted in the community with what happened to her,” Judge Rogers said. “She has to go through the humiliation of being known ... as a victim of Mr. Scaringe.”

“Obviously we’re satisfied with the sentence,” Franklin County Chief Assistant District Attorney Glenn MacNeill said. “We think it was an appropriate sentence for the circumstances of the case.”

Mr. MacNeill prosecuted the case alongside former Chief ADA Jack Delehanty, who retired following the trial. Mr. Delehanty was in the gallery to observe the sentencing, but declined comment afterward.

The judge informed Scaringe that he has 30 days to file an appeal. Ms. Rain said she sees numerous appellate issues stemming from the trial that she hopes will be resolved in future court action.

One of the main issues, according to Ms. Rain, is what she feels was a reversal of County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr.’s decision to allow women to testify that Scaringe abused them in the 1970s to be used to prove only the endangering the welfare of a child charge.

“I ... believe the jurors were not able to delineate it [past alleged victims’ testimony] was only for the endangering and not the [second-degree] rape,” Ms. Rain said following the sentencing.

Ms., Rain said there may also be an issue dealing with Scaringe’s Constitutional right to a speedy trial. The law gives the prosecution six months to announce readiness for trial in county court, starting at the date police file certain paperwork, Ms. Rain said in June. In this case, the papers were filed Jan. 1, 2010 when Scaringe was arrested and prosecutors announced readiness for trial six months later, according to Rain.

She said in June that Scaringe had originally been charged with a second count of second-degree sexual abuse, but it was dropped due to lack of evidence. Ms. Rain said at some point prosecutors filed motions to re-charge Scaringe with the additional sexual abuse count. They were unsuccessful. But she argued the motion restarted the six-month clock that began on Jan. 1, therefore prosecutors went over the six-month limit.

Ms. Rain commented on the prosecution’s use of expert witness Dr. Don Lewittes, a forensic psychologist who offered testimony about the effects sexual abuse has on children.

“I think it was a mistake allowing the expert witness to testify,” Ms. Rain said. “He didn’t testify about anything relating to her.”

Prior to the sentencing, Ms. Rain voiced several objections to the pre-sentence investigation report, a document compiled by the probation department prior to any misdemenaor or felony sentencing.

The report included letters from an unidentified member of Scaringe’s family alleging past sexual abuse, but Judge Rogers did not consider the letter when determining sentence, District Attorney Derek Champagne said.

“[The district attorney’s office] encouraged these people to contact probation; they should’ve contacted the court,” Ms. Rain said after the sentencing.

Mr. Champagne said overall he is pleased with the outcome of the case.

“It took 37 years to stop this man from sexually abusing children in this county,” Mr. Champagne said. “I’m very pleased with my staff for the excellent job they did.”

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