Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wheelchair-Bound Lawyer's Sex Assault Case Dismissed
Fox 5 News began reporting about this case in spring 2010, and it got stranger and stranger. A man was accused of a crime -- sexual assault -- that seemed almost impossible for him to commit. And yet he was formally charged and had to appear in court.
Hippocrate "Chicho" Mertsaris needs a team to get him from one place to another.
Chicho moves like this because his brain was injured during his delivery at birth. He has cerebral palsy, and it robs him of the ability to control his arms and legs. An aide or his father helps him with everything.
"He cannot do anything by himself," his father says.
Chicho can use a computer. He manipulates it with his head. The thinking part of his brain works fine. He graduated from college, even earned a law degree, passed the bar exam, and now works as a lawyer at the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The trouble started at work in the Queens office of the TLC. His aide helps him at work. And this particular day, the aide moved Chicho away from his desk, and left the office to do an errand.
"I moved him away from the desk since he has no control of his arms, especially the left one," the aide says. "He moves it, and everything on the desk goes on the floor."
After the aide left, a female administrative law judge arrived. Chicho says he got nervous and his flailing arm hit her.
Chicho says he did not intend to hit her.
Nevertheless she ran screaming from the room, saying that Chicho grabbed her buttocks and inner thigh.
"He says when he hit her, his hand hit her on the back," says the aide. "She screamed 'help, help.' A guy in a wheelchair cannot catch nobody, and she ran out of the room."
The woman, the administrative law judge, went to police precinct and filed a police report. Suddenly Chicho was arrested and charged.
"They consider him like a criminal," his father says.
We were amazed when the Queens District Attorney's Office says Chicho could use his hands.
I asked him to try to grab me with his hands, but he could not.
But the Queens District Attorney's Office kept the legal snowball rolling. Chicho appeared in court six times, as the case was postponed and postponed.
Finally in December 2010 a trial before a judge was set. The district attorney offered Chicho a plea bargain. He turned it down. His lawyer, Wyatt Gibbons, says it was an easy decision.
And then minutes later the case was dismissed -- almost a year after the administrative law judge claimed that Chicho sexually assaulted her. Chicho's family estimates it cost them $15,000.
It also cost taxpayers thousands, although a spokesman for the Queens D.A. couldn't tell exactly what it cost. But he said it was dropped because the woman who made the allegation said she felt sorry for Chicho, and without her testimony there was no case.
Chicho is now works in an office where he doesn't see this woman.