Vt. attorney general's office takes lead in 25-year-old case

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Florida man is headed for trial in Vermont after his conviction for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old here was thrown out.

Leonard Forte

Retired New York detective Leonard Forte, 78, lives in LaBelle, Florida. He is accused of felony sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl during a ski trip to Vermont in 1987. A jury found Forte guilty, but in 1989 a judge ordered a new trial, citing the prosecutor prejudiced the jury.

The case was then delayed after Forte's claims that traveling to Vermont to stand trial would kill him because he has a terminal illness.

However, prosecutors from the Vermont's attorney general's office say they recently learned that Forte may be better than he indicated.

"We have since learned information about the reason why we couldn't bring the case to a new trial based on his representations to the court that he was too ill to travel and too ill to withstand the rigors of a criminal trial and we have since learned recently that those representations may not have been entirely the truth," Vt. Assistant Attorney General Linda Purdy said.

We do not know what that new information is. Forte failed to appear by phone at a status conference Monday in Bennington Superior Court. A new status conference is scheduled for next week.

The state says it is ready for trial. They say the evidence against Forte is strong and the victim, even though she does not live in Vermont, is still willing to testify.