Friends rally behind snowshoer charged with sex abuse

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SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (WCAX) A New York grand jury is pushing to pursue sex abuse charges against a snowshoe racer from India whose arrest in the North Country earned national headlines, but some community members argue that he is innocent.

When Tanveer Hussain, 25, traveled from India to Saranac Lake in February, the community rallied to support his visit and participation in the World Snowshoe Championships. Soon after, he was arrested and police charged him with sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, but some community members say they still stand by him.

"Everything I've seen has pointed to Tanveer Hussain's innocence. There's no substantial evidence against him. There actually is, I think, more evidence showing his innocence," said Rich Shapiro of Saranac Lake.

Hussain has been indicted by an Essex County grand jury on the charges and will face a trial in county court. Shapiro, who attended Hussain's first court date and has even housed him during his court ordered stay in the U.S., says Hussain is innocent.

"Once this does come to trial, we're waiting for that. He wants to prove his innocence. He had the opportunity to pay a $250 fine to go home five months ago, and he turned that offer down because he maintains his innocence," Shapiro said.

The Essex County district attorney did not return calls for comment, but the DA's office did issue a press release. It says Hussain allegedly subjected a 12-year-old girl to sexual contact and inappropriate conversations.

Hussain's lawyer, Brian Barrett, issued the following statement: "I look forward to testing the evidence in front of a jury. He is presumed innocent by law, and certainly no one has any reason not to presume him innocent in this case."

Hussain will be arraigned in Essex County Court Friday at 2 p.m.