LOCKPORT – The retrial of a former Lutheran school music teacher, whose conviction on child sexual abuse charges was overturned on appeal, was to have started today but has been postponed until Jan. 6.
Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas made the postponement late last week after attorneys for Michael J. Solomon objected to a prosecution move to bring in an expert witness to talk about why a sexual abuse victim might delay reporting the crime.
Defense attorneys Glenn Pincus and Steven M. Cohen sought time to hire a rebuttal expert on the subject of delayed disclosure.
However, Farkas refused to allow the defense to call an expert to talk about why a suspect might confess to a crime he never committed. That’s what the defense says happened in the Solomon case. Solomon testified that he was taken from his home by a half-dozen officers who brought a police dog, and hauled to Police Headquarters to be questioned by Detective Karen Smith.
Solomon testified during a pretrial hearing in July that he was worried about a child he had left unattended at home after the police took him for questioning.
He alleged that Smith told him that if he confessed to molesting the girl, he could go home. So Solomon said, “It might have happened once when I was very drunk.” Instead of being freed, Solomon was then arrested.
“Our defense is, this didn’t happen,” Pincus said Thursday.
Farkas ruled Wednesday that Solomon’s statements to Smith will be admissible at the retrial, but remarks in a subsequent interview with another detective, Larry Kuebler, have been thrown out. The reason was that a female attorney, who Solomon did not know, was summoned from Niagara Falls, and drove from the Como Restaurant to North Tonawanda police headquarters.
Farkas said she estimated that the attorney, who at first was not allowed to see Solomon, must have arrived about the time that Kuebler took over from Smith in questioning Solomon.
Farkas also said the defense will be given an exception to New York’s “rape shield” law in questioning the alleged victim about her sex life before the arrest. Farkas said the defense can cross-examine the woman, now 24, about her “drinking, drugs and promiscuity.”
But the judge said the attorneys may not ask for a total of the woman’s sexual partners when she was underage, and the questioning may not be “salacious.”
Prosecutors, however, will be allowed to bring up how Solomon allegedly supplied the girl with alcohol and marijuana.
Solomon, 48, was convicted in August 2005 on 23 counts of having sex with the girl between August 1999 and March 2004, and of using her in pornographic photos.
However, after serving seven years of a 32-year prison sentence, Solomon won an order for a new trial from the state Court of Appeals, which ruled his public defender, Michele G. Bergevin, had a conflict of interest because she once represented Kuebler in a private legal matter.
Police said the alleged victim was not one of his music students. Solomon directed the band at St. John and Holy Ghost Lutheran schools in Wheatfield, and also taught instruments at Matt’s Music in North Tonawanda.