A Levittown man pleaded guilty to a felony Tuesday and will get probation in the second of two separate domestic violence cases that sparked a Nassau prosecutor’s May resignation after a judge found she mishandled evidence.
Ernest Cassano Jr., 32, had faced a 16-count indictment on charges related to alleged offenses against his ex-girlfriend that included strangulation, coercion and assault following his 2015 arrest.
He admitted Tuesday to a felony charge of attempted strangulation — which has a top penalty of 4 years in prison — after a negotiated plea bargain with the prosecution.
Under the deal, Nassau Supervising Judge Christopher Quinn will sentence Cassano in January to 5 years of probation. He also signed an order Tuesday telling Cassano to stay away from the victim.
“The DA folded their cards and gave an offer that he couldn’t refuse because of the misconduct in their office,” Cassano’s Rockville Centre attorney, Michael DerGarabedian, said later.
This spring, Quinn found then-assistant district attorney D.J. Rosenbaum committed a Brady violation in Cassano’s case and another unrelated case. The Brady rule says prosecutors have to give the defense evidence that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the seriousness of the alleged crime.
Rosenbaum, who headed the Child Abuse Unit, resigned May 31 at her employer’s request after an internal review of both cases. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Miriam Sholder, a spokeswoman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, said in a statement Tuesday that Cassano’s plea validated the victim’s account and justice had been served.
Singas “has been steadfast that she will support the victims of domestic violence and hold her office to the highest ethical standards,” and the case “exemplifies both of those positions,” Sholder added.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick had sent the defense a January letter saying a different prosecutor found “a discrepancy in information and testimony regarding a statement” Cassano made to police.
She told DerGarabedian her office wouldn’t use Cassano’s statements as evidence and that Singas had ordered an ethics review to see if Rosenbaum mishandled Brady material.
DerGarabedian said Rosenbaum “willfully withheld” notes she generated while interviewing one of the police officers on the case that contradicted another officer’s grand jury testimony.
In his May 16 decision on the Brady violation in Cassano’s case, Quinn also ordered the prosecution to turn over its files so he could decide whether to impose sanctions on them. DerGarabedian said Tuesday that Quinn examined prosecution files and didn’t impose sanctions after Rosenbaum’s resignation.
Last month, Quinn dropped the charges at the prosecution’s request in the other domestic violence case that ensnared Rosenbaum in a Brady violation. DerGarabedian said that client of his spent 2 years in jail while prosecutors sat on evidence that exonerated the Uniondale man.