HUDSON FALLS -- A Moreau man who police believe sexually assaulted a disabled woman in a group home has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after the felony counts against him were dismissed in a plea deal that was criticized Monday by an advocate for the handicapped.
The felony counts against Ricky W. Sousie, 49, were quietly dropped in Washington County Court in November, with a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of an incompetent person filed instead in Hudson Falls Village Court.
Sousie has pleaded guilty to that charge and is awaiting sentencing in Hudson Falls Village Court on Jan. 5. He is expected to receive a 1-year term in Washington County Jail, which is the maximum for the misdemeanor charge. He will not have to register as a sex offender because the charge is not considered a sex offense.
Sousie could have faced up to 7 years in state prison on the felony charge of second-degree criminal sexual act. Michael Carey, founder of the Jonathan Carey Foundation, which advocates for the disabled, has been following the case and called the plea deal "a gross injustice" and said he was "absolutely appalled" when he learned of the plea deal. He said he had spoken to Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright about the case several times and believed there was sufficient evidence to take the case to trial.
"They had an eyewitness and DNA evidence. Personally, I feel that if you took that to a jury, anybody with any common sense would have convicted the guy," Carey said.
Carey said Kortright told him prosecutors believed they couldn't prove a sexual assault occurred, and that Sousie was planning a defense that he masturbated but did not assault the woman. The woman's disability prevents her from talking or communicating.
Kortright's office had said in October its efforts to get medical records in the case were hindered by privacy laws and the fact the victim had no local relatives to consent to the records' release.
Kortright has not returned recent phone calls about the case, including one left on his cell phone voicemail on Monday, and he was not in his office on Monday. Assistant District Attorney Katherine Henley, who was in Hudson Falls Village Court for the guilty plea, referred comment to Kortright on Monday.
A Washington County grand jury filed the charges against Sousie in May, based on DNA evidence and the testimony of a co-worker who told police she saw him on a floor at the Main Street, Hudson Falls group home where he worked, with a partially naked disabled 54-year-old woman on the floor next to him.
The incident happened on Dec. 23, 2006, but because the woman cannot talk, the police investigation stalled until DNA tests were done on semen found near her genitals.
The felony charges were dismissed on the eve of trial, after Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan found the Washington County District Attorney's Office did not turn over evidence to defense lawyer Joseph Brennan as required.
Brennan would not discuss that issue on Monday, but he said Sousie has maintained his innocence and agreed to the plea deal with the understanding the felony charges would be dropped, and to avoid the possibility of a prison sentence.
"He has always denied the charges that were filed against him," Brennan said.
Sousie is no longer employed by the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which operated the home.
Carey, who started the Jonathan Carey Foundation after his son died in the care of OMRDD, has also questioned how OMRDD could have allowed Sousie to return to work after the co-worker saw him with the woman. He was initially suspended, but when police did not file charges in the months that followed, he was brought back to work at another OMRDD group home in the region until his indictment.