Press-Republican

March 9, 2013

Sex-abuse sentencing upheld

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — A Malone man convicted of sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl he sometimes babysat lost an appeal this week.

William R. Izzo III, 37, of 16 Franklin St. was sentenced to 25 years in state prison in March 2011 by Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. for first-degree criminal sex act, first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Izzo was a family friend of the victim’s family in early 2007.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2010, when she was 9, that the girl told anyone Izzo had come into her bedroom years before and touched her genitals while she was sharing a bed with her sister.

JUROR QUESTION

In his appeal to the Third Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Izzo said that during questioning to determine if one candidate was qualified to sit on the jury, the man was asked if he would have a problem deciding on a case if it hinged on the testimony of a child.

He answered, ‘I don’t know,’ and was excused from serving over the objection of the defense, the appeal had said.

Izzo claims that answer didn’t necessarily preclude the man from being impartial and that he should have been able to serve on the jury.

But the judges said a potential juror must “give unequivocal assurance that they can render an impartial verdict based on the evidence. Here, the juror’s uncertain responses as to whether he could convict on the basis of only one child witness clearly justified (Main’s) decision to excuse him for cause.”

DIDN’T DISPUTE CRIMES

Izzo also claimed the evidence presented by prosecutors was not legally weighty enough to justify the jury’s verdict, that the child was too young to understand that she had to tell the truth under oath, and that there was no evidence to back up her version of events.

The judges ruled that Izzo didn’t dispute the details of the crimes the girl described that he committed and said the girl was 9 at the time she testified, so she “was competent to testify under oath and such testimony did not require corroboration.

“The defendant relies on minor inconsistencies between the victim’s testimony, her prior statements and her mother’s testimony,” the judges state. “We didn’t find these inconsistencies material or even particularly significant in light of this young — age 5 at the time of the abuse — victim’s very consistent and specific description of the actual abuse.”

‘INEFFECTIVE COUNSEL’

Izzo next claimed Public Defender Thomas Soucia was ineffective counsel because, during cross-examination, he didn’t introduce prior inconsistencies in the girl’s statements.

The judges said Soucia did question the girl about some of the statements, “and she explained that she could not remember.

“We find the decision not to badger a child victim of sexual abuse … to be a sound trial strategy,” the judges said, “especially in light of the delicate and often difficult task of cross-examining a child who claimed to have been a victim of sexual assault.”

They also ruled that Soucia promptly objected to leading questions and provided “meaningful representation to the defendant” that succeeded in having two counts of the indictment against his client dismissed.

PRIOR VICTIM

“Given the nature of the crimes committed against this young, vulnerable victim,” the ruling said, “(Izzo’s) significant criminal history — which includes a prior sex offense against a 2-year-old female — and his refusal to accept accountability for his crimes, we cannot find that (Main’s) decision to sentence him to the maximum allowable sentence was harsh or excessive.”

And given the fact that Izzo rejected a plea offer of seven years in state prison that could have spared the child from “the ordeal of a trial,” the judges said, “we find that the sentence ultimately imposed was not a penalty for (his) exercise of his right to trial but a fair response to the nature of the crime and defendant’s criminal history.”

Izzo, incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility, has a conditional release date Oct. 16, 2031, according to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website.

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com