Trial opens Friday for Kung Fu master charged with sex abuse


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.

Convict and dad accused of bribing 10-year-old accuser

August began today with some serious allegations by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office. A father and son from Mamaroneck are accused of trying to bribe a 10-year-old with a new bicycle and an iPad Touch to say he lied at trial about being sexually abused. The son, Elmer Pinto, (left) is the convicted molester. His father, Fred Pinto, is the one offering the gifts, prosecutors say.

The men could be facing charges of witness tampering, bribery and contempt. Elmer Pinto is already looking at a prison sentence of 5 to 25 years after being convicted in March of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child.

The boy’s mother is also under investigation for convincing her son to recant his testimony. Prosecutors say she was offered $5,000 to get her son to change his story. If she did convince him to recant falsely, with or without money, she could face criminal charges as well.

The case was adjourned to Sept. 20 so the defense can look into the allegations.

Man charged with trying to arrange sex with girl, 10

A 49-year-old Fishkill man accused of trying to have sex with a 10-year-old girl was arraigned on a sex charge this morning.

Robert Viggiano (left), an electrical contractor, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of first-degree attempted rape. He is free on $100,000 bail.

According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, Viggiano approached a prostitute and told her he wanted to have sex with a 10-year-old virgin. He asked her if she could arrange it.

Instead, the prostitute reported him to Yonkers police, who with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office set up a sting operation. They had Viggiano go to a pre-arranged location on Feb. 8, leading him to think he would meet the girl there for sex.

When he showed up — with $400 and candy in his pockets — he was arrested.

Viggiano is due back in court on May 10. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison if convicted.