Rockland prosecutors today fell on their own sword and dismissed sexual abuse charges and other counts against fired Ramapo Police Officer Andrew Dale – killing the controversial case before Judge Catherine Bartlett likely would have after hearing all the testimony in a non-jury trial. Charges also were dismissed against Zalman Silber, a millionaire Monsey businessman.
Prosecutors acted a day after their chief – and only – witness, Sarah Sharon Silber, admitted she had lied on medical and insurance forms, as well as her divorce papers.
Dale’s defense lawyer, David Goldstein, then snared her in another lie after she told the judge that she didn’t give massages in New York, where she’s not licensed to rub down bodies. Videos with audio played before the judge showed did three massages in Monsey and The Bronx – results of a sting operation by the defense team of Dale and her accused husband, Zalman Silber.
And her husband’s lawyer, William Aronwald, believes they could have videoed her doing many more massages, since she advertised in New York magazines.
Sarah Silber had accused Dale of performing gynecological, rectal and breast exams on her under strange conditions at her then home in Monsey. The circumstances included telling her to change clothing – she chose a evening gown and patterned skirt – and doing 25 jumping jacks after each of the exams in heels and her underware. She said her then husband watched.
Whether Bartlett believed her testimony about the examinations, defense lawyers couldn’t say, but they had gut feelings they were on solid ground.
Aronwald said he believed the judge would have dismissed the case based on the law – there wasn’t evidence to support sexual abuse or practicing medicine without a license. Aronwald said the prosecution’s second mistake was relying on Sarah Silber as the sole witness without obviously vetting her. He said the lies the defense found on her medical and insurance forms were there for the prosecution to find since they had the same documents.
“This case was doomed from the beginning,” Aronwald said. “The DA is in the position of getting an indictment. It’s a tough decision to prosecute. But they didn’t have any corroboration. Dave brought out the lies. Then we had the massage video, which the DA didn’t know about.
“I give them credit for pulling the plug on this thing before it went any further,” Aronwald said, referring to prosecutors realizing Sarah Silber’s testimony likely convinced Bartlett to dismiss the charges or acquit the two men. He also said his clients claims his former wife threatened to bring charges to Rockland prosecutors – and did in December 2007 – after he refused to give her $300,000 more in divorce payments.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe issued the following statement: “Given the development in court yesterday where it became clear that the complaining witness was untruthful under oath in a collateral matter, and persisted when confronted with incontrovertible proof. the District Attorney’s Office felt it could not longer sustain its burden of proof. Therefore, the District Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss in the interest of justice. The District Attorney’s Office has an obligation to seek justice and insure that only truthful testimony is advanced in court.”
Bartlett was not enamoured with the prosecution’s case from the beginning or Sarah Silber’s testimony during pre-trial hearings.
The judge already had dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual counts before the non-jury trial, as well as several felonies for official misconduct against Dale, who had been accused of doing the exams in his police uniform. She and prosecutors fought over whether she recused herself from the case after a woman discussed the Silbers’ divorce with her. An appeals panel ruled she didn’t and the judge had the discretion to make that decision.
As for Zalman Silber, he still faces charges in Manhattan on accusations of doing gynecological and rectal exams on Orthodox Jewish women at an expensive Manhattan office that he supposedly rented.
Those charges could go the way of the Rockland case. The misdemeanor sexual abuse coutns against him were dropped as beyond the statute of limitations, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said today. He faces felony counts of unauthorized practice of a profession (medicine) and unauthorized use of the professional title (doctor).
Another hearing for Zalman Silber is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Manhattan.