KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A 72-year-old man who has been facing sex assault charges for the past 26 years will likely still be facing them until at least November after he agreed Thursday to let the Attorney General’s Office speak to his treating physicians, this after he already agreed to let the state see his medical records in August.
Leonard Forte, of Fort Myers, Fla., was charged in 1987 with three counts of sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl. The incident happened in Landgrove. Forte was convicted on all three counts by a jury, but the convictions were overturned because the presiding judge ruled the prosecutor’s closing argument was too emotional. The state appealed and after a long series of legal twists and turns the case was set for retrial.
In the meantime, Forte suffered a series of heart attacks and claimed the stress of a new trial would kill him. In 2005, Forte was told to keep the court updated on his health while he awaited a heart transplant. By then the Attorney General’s Office had taken over the prosecution of the case.
Late last year, Forte informed the court he had been taken off the transplant list and the case began to move again. In August, Forte agreed to let a doctor appointed by the state to examine him, however on Thursday Deputy Attorney General David Tarttar claimed Forte had refused to let him speak with the physicians treating Forte in Florida.
In the past, Forte has claimed he fears his treatment will be affected if his doctors are aware of his pending charges. Tarttar disputed this, saying Forte told him that the reason was embarrassment.
Both Forte and Tartter spoke via telephone to Vermont Superior Court Judge Nancy Corsones. Forte seemed to dispute Tarttar’s version of events, saying the state’s doctor declared him too ill to stand trial and that Tarttar wanted to talk to his doctors about accommodations anyway. "I am terminal, I am unable to travel," said Forte, who was cut off by Corsones.
Once Corsones established that Forte had no objection to his doctor speaking with Tarttar, she advised Tarter to get a transcript of the court hearing and present it to the physician.
A status conference was set for Nov. 8 at 1:30 p.m. Tarttar said it would take roughly two weeks to obtain a court transcript, and further time would be needed to schedule an appointment with the doctor. Tarttar said he would also be out of the office in late October.
Forte has filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds of his health. Corsones did not address the motion.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.