A Kings Point woman says the man accused of touching her inappropriately in a synagogue was allowed to settle his criminal case with a light penalty because he was an influential person who was deputy mayor of the village.
This "is why women are reluctant to come forward when something like this happens to them," Joanna Cronin wrote in one of two letters to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Rice's office entered into an agreement in court Monday to drop the harassment charge against David Harounian, 74, six months from now if he performs 14 hours of community service, does not further harass Cronin, 43, and does not get arrested on another charge.
"If this occurred in the workplace, there would have been a higher penalty. If this occurred in the Army, there would have been a higher penalty," Cronin said in an interview Tuesday. "There should be severe consequences for these kinds of attacks. The law isn't strong enough for women."
The prosecutor's decision, "speaks volumes to the issue that position, influence and wealth carries in seeking justice," Cronin wrote to Rice in December after learning of the arrangement.
She said she met with prosecutors last year and voiced her objections, but never received a response to her two letters.
A spokesman for Rice said prosecutors had responded to the one letter she sent -- which they say was sent twice -- and discussed her concerns in person and on the telephone.
"The district attorney's office has prosecuted dozens of public officials and in each case has pursued outcomes based on provable evidence and available facts," Rice's office said in a statement.
Harounian, the deputy mayor of Kings Point and the owner of a Manhattan Persian rug business, entered into the agreement, called an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, on Monday in First District Court in Hempstead. He also agreed to a do-not-harass order of protection for Cronin.
As long as he does not violate the terms of the agreement, the charge of harassment in the second degree, a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail, will be dropped in six months.
Cronin said the incident occurred on Oct. 26 as she sat in Temple Israel of Great Neck on Old Mill Road with her 11-year-old daughter. She said she was approached by a stranger who asked her a sexually suggestive question.
About a half-hour later, as they were both leaving the temple, she said he approached her again, and this time took her arm and moved it against her chest. She later learned the man was Harounian.
Harounian's attorney, Melvyn Roth of Garden City, said his client entered into the agreement because: "The ultimate result is a dismissal. For practical reasons, it's better to get this resolved now and the charges will be dismissed later, as they should be."