Newstead Town Judge Dennis R. Freeman appears to have trouble living up to the strict standards required of judges. In 1991, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Judge Freeman for interference in a case. Most recently, Judge Freeman let a convicted pedophile off without even so much as probation.
In August of 2013, Raymond Heck appeared before Judge Freeman on two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Mr. Heck invited two eight-year-old girls into his residence and, “while he was naked, exposed his genitals to them, asked if they ever saw a man’s penis before, asked if they would like to touch it, and showed them pictures of naked adults and children in a laptop computer.” Mr. Heck admitted committing a similar offense with a group of young girls in Monroe County to the investing officer. Because of that offense, Mr. Heck spent 16 weekends in jail.
Let us consider those facts: someone with a history of molesting children lures two children into his residence and shows them pornography, including child pornography, while completely naked. Decent people would expect that Mr. Heck would be facing local, state and federal charges and to spend his days in jail awaiting trial. Instead, Judge Freeman allowed Mr. Heck to walk out of the courtroom and back into our community.
It gets worse. In September, Mr. Heck returned to court with his defense attorney, New York State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, and entered a plea of guilty to one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. It is standard procedure in a case such as this for the judge to order a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). The Probation Department completes a PSI following conviction but prior to sentencing in order to assist the judge in his/her sentencing decision. The report includes family and criminal court history, educational, employment and medical records, drug/alcohol use and a statement from the arresting/investigating officer and the victim. This type of report is essential with a sex offense.
Mr. Ranzenhofer started a conversation about the PSI and Judge Freeman indicated, “They usually like us to send this down for a PSI.” Mr. Ranzenhofer insisted there was no need and Mr. Heck was “waiving his right to a PSI.” Mr. Ranzenhofer claimed he would send Mr. Heck for “an evaluation.” Judge Freeman sentenced Mr. Heck to a one year Conditional Discharge and issued an Order of Protection for the victims. Mr. Heck left court without providing an address, claiming he could not remember it.
A PSI would have fully revealed Mr. Heck’s background, including the fact that he previously held second jobs as a clown and Santa Claus. A Probation Officer would likely have recommended nothing less than probation so that Mr. Heck could be supervised and any necessary conditions be enforced (i.e. attend counseling, submit to home inspections, staying away from children, etc.). Endangering the Welfare of a Child is a Class A Misdemeanor and sentencing options include up to one year in jail or three years of probation.
A pedophile with a previous record left Newstead Town Court with the least restrictive sentence courtesy of Judge Dennis R. Freeman.
This incident is not the first time that Judge Freeman demonstrated questionable values in the courtroom: In 1990, Judge Freeman submitted a letter, on court stationary, on behalf of a friend (and customer of his sporting goods store) who had his pistol permit revoked as part of a DWI conviction. In 1991, an 11-member panel of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that Judge Freeman had violated the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct by using the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of a customer of his business.
How can our community trust Dennis Freeman’s judgment? He has a history of mixing his private business interests and his role as a judge, and his actions in the Heck case put a convicted pedophile back on our streets. It is time for a change at Newstead Town Court.