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Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato awarded temporary custody of his children, court papers say

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato on Jan. 3.

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato on Jan. 3. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A judge has awarded former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato temporary custody of his two young children but also ruled that his estranged wife Katuria D'Amato no longer needs supervision while parenting their son and daughter.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lorintz's written decision followed a custody hearing that stretched more than a year after Katuria D'Amato's 911 call in September 2017 from the couple's former Lido Beach marital home led to her involuntary hospitalization.

Days later, the judge granted Alfonse D'Amato custody of the couple's son, now 11, and daughter, now 9, after the former senator from New York questioned his estranged wife's mental stability following her 911 call about a possible home intrusion.

Police who responded to the call testified at the hearing that Katuria D'Amato, 53, was delusional during the encounter and said her estranged husband would let intruders into the home who hid behind laser beams.

Police also testified that Katuria D'Amato reported she'd hid in a closet and unsuccessfully tried to load a shotgun before calling 911. She later played home surveillance videos for police that she said showed lasers but actually didn't, according to their testimony.

The psychiatrist who treated Katuria D'Amato during her involuntary hospitalization testified that he believed she experienced drug-induced psychosis from too much Ritalin — prescribed for her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In his June 19 order, Lorintz wrote that it was in the D'Amato children's best interest for Alfonse D'Amato, 81, to remain the "custodial parent" pending a final custody order as the couple's divorce proceedings continue.

He found Alfonse D'Amato's testimony about the 911 encounter "consistent with the credible testimony of the police" and the hospital psychiatrist, and that portions of Katuria D'Amato's testimony were "demonstrably false."

Lorintz said Katuria D'Amato's testimony that she didn't try to use a shotgun was "contradicted by the credible testimony of multiple responding officers."

In her testimony, Katuria D'Amato denied ever trying to get her shotgun out, saying it was "brand-new" and in a box, with the weapon secured by a gun lock when police arrived.

But the judge also ruled that she no longer needed an adult supervisor present to spend time with her children, noting that two physicians found her "no longer a danger to herself or others."

The two children now each spend four days a week with their father and three with their mother, according to the decision, an arrangement that Lorintz ruled will stay in place.

The judge noted he remained "wary" of Katuria D'Amato's behavior on the day she called 911.

"Her testimony that she never saw or discussed lasers, despite the 911 recording in which she spoke about lasers and the numerous witnesses who testified that she claimed to see lasers, is also concerning," Lorintz wrote.

But the judge also said he "is unaware of any similar episode" since that time.

"We're pleased that this stage of the litigation has ended with Senator D'Amato remaining the temporary custodial parent, which we believe is in the best interest of the children," Alfonse D'Amato's attorney, Stephen Gassman, said Monday. "And we look forward to an expeditious conclusion of the next and final phase of the litigation." 

Katuria D'Amato, who acted as her own attorney after the judge disqualified her third lawyer on the case, said Monday that the idea she needed to be supervised with her children "was preposterous from the outset."

The corporate lawyer added that while she thinks "there are certain things in the decision that are belied by the evidence," she believes "at the end of the day, it's a win."

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