Kung Fu grandmaster guilty of all charges in Westchester court

After a little more than two days of deliberations, a jury found Frank DeMaria guilty of nine charges that he directed four young girls to touch his genitals at his former martial arts studio in Croton on Hudson.

DeMaria,one of the highest-ranking martial arts experts in the country, has vehemently denied that he ever had any of his students to touch him inappropriately, including the hundreds of children he has taught in the past 50 years. He called the allegations “disgusting.” His family and supporters backed him up, as did two former students who said they never saw him sexually abuse anyone in his classes.

But his reputation was not enough to counter the testimony of the girls, who are now between 9 and 13 years old, nor the testimony of a male student who said he saw DeMaria abuse an 8-year-old girl in December 2010 and January 2011. Another male student backed up the January 2011 allegation.

DeMaria faces up to 7 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 8, but he also could be sentenced to probation. In either case, he will likely have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

 

Kung Fu in the courtroom

It’s not every day that you get a Buddhist fighting monk to testify at a trial. But when the defendant is Kung Fu grandmaster Frank DeMaria, it makes perfect sense.

Shi Guo Lin brought some action — and a laugh — to the courtroom of Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli today when he took the stand as a defense witness. DeMaria, his friend and Kung Fu brother, is facing felony sex abuse charges for allegedly directing four young female students to grope him during class.

Guo Lin, who does not speak fluent English, did some Kung Fu moves for the jury to demonstrate a groin strike that DeMaria claims he was teaching the girls when two adult male students saw him and accused him of abuse. He showed some other kicks and punches in front of the jury box as defensive moves during an attack.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Cervasio asked Guo Lin about the “tiger claw,” a phrase to describe a groin attack he did not understand in English and that the Mandarin interpreter could not translate.

“Could you demonstrate so I could see what it looks like?” he asked the prim, polished prosecutor. The image of Cervasio, or any of the lawyers, doing Kung Fu caused the courtroom to erupt in laughter.  The judge, with a smile, said there would be no demonstrations and that DeMaria could tell his lawyer the Mandarin word for the tiger claw move so he could inform his witness.

DeMaria, left, and Guo Lin in happier times. Photo from kungfu.org, the American Center of Chinese Studies website.

Trial opens Friday for Kung Fu master charged with sex abuse

UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY ABOUT OPENING STATEMENTS

Frank DeMaria (left) taught a move called the “tiger claw” so his martial arts students could defend themselves against attackers. But Westchester County prosecutors say the move, when it involved grabbing DeMaria’s groin, was an excuse to have 8- and 10-year-old girls fondle the 67-year-old kung fu grandmaster at his Croton-on-Hudson studio.

Jury selection began today for DeMaria, an Ossining resident who founded the American Center for Chinese Studies. His felony sex abuse trial will open at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow before county Judge Barbara Zambelli.

He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies, and four counts of child endangerment, a misdemeanor.

He is charged with abusing four girls, all under 13 years old. Prosecutors say he would have the girls face away from him, reach around and then repeatedly grab, squeeze and pull his penis. While the girls followed instructions, she said, DeMaria would gyrate his hips. Those actions, they argue, is not a legitimate martial arts move.

DeMaria told Croton detectives that his students were taught to grab the eyes, throat and groin of their attackers. He said he taught students to grab the groin when they were in an arm-lock or choke-hold position. When police told him that some of his students complained that he enjoyed being grabbed in the groin, DeMaria reportedly said, “I can’t control what my groin does. It’s a physical reaction, it’s not on purpose.”

Defense lawyer Andrew Quinn said his client, a retired Westchester County police officer, is the third-highest ranked grandmaster of his type of martial arts in the world. He said DeMaria teaches physical street-fighting moves so people can defend themselves, and has demonstrated “tiger claw” defense moves in videos and booklets. Quinn also said the parents and students who sign up for his martial arts courses sign waivers acknowledging that there will be physical contact in the classes.

DeMaria wrote a book on Chang-style tai chi and was head instructor for self-defense at the Westchester Police Academy. He has also taught courses at the State University of New York at Purchase.