LEWISTON —The trial of three Lewiston adults, charged with providing booze and pot to at least three teenage girls, who then claimed they were sexually assaulted in a Mountainview Drive home will not begin today.
After the cancellation of a final pre-trial hearing in April, brought on by the shutdown of both superior and justice courts in New York because of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawyers on both sides of what has come to be known as the Lewiston "Party House" case said a new trial date would be needed.
The defense team for Tricia Vacanti, Gary Sullo and Jessica Long, as well as Niagara County prosecutors had previously told Lewiston Town Court Justice Hugh Gee that they had or were about to complete their obligations under New York's new criminal justice reform law. But the absence of the final pre-trail hearing, along with uncertainty about when town courts may be given permission to reopen, lawyers said, makes a postponement inevitable.
Gee had set a final pre-trial hearing for April 28, with the trial of the case set to start May 19.
Niagara County prosecutors raised the stakes for the trial in January when they added a combined 30 new charges against Vacanti and Sullo in connection with the alcohol and drug-fueled teen parties alleged to have taken place at their home in 2017 and 2018.
Vacanti, 47, and Sullo, 53, were already facing 19 combined counts of unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child in the case. Prosecutors then leveled an additional 22 counts of endangering and unlawful dealing against Vacanti and another eight counts of the same allegations against Sullo.
A friend of the family, Long, 39, continues to face just single counts of unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child.
The cases against the adults are companions to a criminal indictment against Vacanti’s now 18-year-old son Christopher Belter. He pleaded guilty in late June to felony charges of third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse and two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse for encounters with four teenaged girls that occurred during the parties.
He was placed on two years of interim probation during a sentencing hearing in August. Since he was accused of committing the crimes when he was 16 and was first charged in the case when he was 17, Belter remains eligible to be sentenced as a youthful offender.
If Belter is sentenced as a youthful offender, the records of his case will be sealed and he will not have to register as a sex offender.
Belter faces a sentence of either eight years in prison or 10 years probation or a combination of the two depending on his behavior while he is on interim probation.