Leonard Forte, 80, of Florida, who has been fighting extradition to Vermont on decades-old felony charges in the alleged sexual assault of a minor in his Landgrove vacation home in 1987, has been declared mentally competent to stand trial in Bennington after two court-ordered evaluations. 

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Assistant Attorney General Linda Purdy vowed Thursday to vigorously pursue justice in the decades-old Leonard Forte case and the adjudication of newer obstruction charges against the Florida resident.

“We are focused on bringing Mr. Forte to justice and will continue to work toward the process of bringing him back to Vermont to stand trial,” Purdy said. When asked about the specifics of the recent arrest of Forte in Florida, Purdy reiterated her office’s “no comment,” but added, “Our Vermont agent has worked closely with the Florida authorities toward finally finding justice in this case.”

Forte is accused of felony sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl in his Landgrove vacation home in 1997, but the case has dragged on for more than two decades as Forte claimed to be too sick to travel back to Vermont to stand trial. He has since moved to LaBelle, Fla., in Hendry County, just east of Fort Myers.

Forte was arrested on Monday by Florida authorities on a single forgery and impersonation charge and a charge of using a two-way communications device to further a felony. Those charges stem from a forged doctor’s letter presented during a Vermont hearing in 2019, and as a result of Forte using his telephone to further the alleged letter fraud. This year, new charges of obstruction of justice were filed in the Vermont case, and the Bennington Superior Court ruled him competent to stand trial.

Forte was tried and convicted in 1987 on all counts in the sexual abuse case, but the conviction was set aside by the presiding judge because the prosecutor, a woman, was thought to be “too emotional” in swaying the jury. The charges were refiled in 1997, but no trial has yet been set.

Forte posted a $20,000 bail and was released the same day.


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