Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, his voice breaking, testified Wednesday at a child custody hearing that he asked police not to take his estranged wife to a hospital last year after she called 911 to report home intruders who supposedly hid behind lasers.
“I said, ‘Please don’t take her away. Let her stay. I’ll go,’ ” D’Amato said from a witness stand in Nassau matrimonial court.
The political power broker and lobbyist kept his head lowered, becoming emotional as he described the scene on Sept. 30 at the couple’s former marital home in Lido Beach when police took Katuria D’Amato to a hospital involuntarily.
The former senator, 80, said Katuria — the mother of their 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter — cursed at him on her way to an ambulance, shouting that she would divorce him and he was no good.
Alfonse D’Amato also testified that Katuria has been verbally abusive toward their son on a regular basis, and that he had to stay silent as a father or be accused of undercutting her parenting.
After court, Katuria D’Amato called his claim “patently untrue” and said her husband was the one who verbally abused their son.
In the past, she denied Alfonse D’Amato’s testimony that she was a heavy wine drinker who once punched him — calling him the one with “an anger issue.”
Police officers testified previously before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lorintz that Katuria D’Amato, a 52-year-old lawyer, told them after their 911 response that she’d unsuccessfully been trying to load a shotgun for protection against people her husband let into her home. She also said those intruders wanted to kidnap her and hid behind green lasers, according to police testimony.
The psychiatrist who treated Katuria D’Amato during her hospitalization previously testified he believed she had drug-induced psychosis from taking too much Ritalin for ADHD.
The court hearing is to determine if the father can keep temporary custody of the children as the couple divorces. The proceeding grew out of temporary custody and stay-away orders Lorintz granted after Alfonse D’Amato questioned his wife’s mental stability after her 911 call.
Katuria D’Amato has said her husband sought custody to punish her for filing for divorce Oct. 3 after her hospital release.
But Alfonse D’Amato also testified Wednesday under questioning by his attorney, Stephen Gassman of Garden City, that he decided to seek child custody hours before he got his wife’s divorce petition.
“I came to the decision that I had to protect the children, that if Katuria had another episode like this, the kids could be endangered,” he said, adding that her complaints about lasers being shot into the house had been going on “at least two or three years.”
Under cross-examination, the former senator told his wife’s Garden City attorney, Thomas Liotti, she didn’t have “a psychiatric history per se.” Alfonse D’Amato also said a police officer who testified he believed the ex-senator had told him his wife had been taking lithium “was absolutely incorrect,” saying he only told police she took OxyContin and Ritalin.
The husband also acknowledged he initiated his own divorce petition in Nassau after his wife’s, which included language saying he knew of no other divorce action pending in any other court.
“It would appear that that’s not correct,” D’Amato admitted, when Liotti pointed out his client’s Manhattan divorce petition was dated before the ex-senator’s.
Separately, Katuria D’Amato is seeking Lorintz’s recusal and for all matters to be handled in a Manhattan court — saying no Long Island judge should be asked to decide a case involving her husband because of his local political influence.
Lorintz on Wednesday said he wouldn’t change his position after previously ruling Alfonse D’Amato can travel to Puerto Rico with his children for an upcoming vacation.
But Liotti cited safety concerns from his client, who wants to take the children on a ski trip, and said after court an appellate court could still put a stop to the father’s plans.