Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and his estranged wife faced off in a Mineola courtroom Monday as she questioned him while acting as her own attorney in their ongoing battle for temporary custody of their children.
The proceeding took on a surreal quality at times as Katuria D’Amato queried the Republican powerbroker about a September 2017 police response to their former marital home in Lido Beach that led to her involuntary hospitalization.
Addressing him as "Mr. D'Amato," the corporate attorney — marking a continuation of her first-ever trial — asked questions aimed at debunking the contention that she had been potentially a danger to herself or others at the time of the police response.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lorintz jumped in repeatedly to remind Katuria D'Amato, 53, not to ask repetitive or leading questions.
At one point, the judge also told the former senator he couldn’t query his estranged wife after he shot back a rhetorical question at her from the witness stand.
Lorintz granted Alfonse D'Amato, now 81, emergency custody of the couple’s son and daughter, now 11 and 9, days after the 911 response when Alfonse D'Amato filed court papers challenging Katuria D'Amato's mental stability.
Police testified previously that Katuria D'Amato was "delusional" after they answered her report of a possible home intrusion, and was saying she believed Alfonse D'Amato would let intruders into the residence who hid behind lasers.
Katuria D'Amato also told police at the time that she hid in a closet and unsuccessfully tried to load a shotgun — because she couldn't find a key to its gun lock — before calling 911, according to other police testimony.
A doctor who treated Katuria D'Amato after police forced her to go to a local hospital testified previously he thought she had a drug-induced psychosis from too much Ritalin — prescribed to treat her ADHD.
"God help us if you had been able to find the key to the lock and get the gun unlocked and loaded," Alfonse D'Amato testified Monday. "…Who knows what you would have done and who may have been a victim?"
But Katuria D'Amato replied that she'd owned the shotgun for years by then — a purchase that she said, during another exchange in court Monday, was in response to a security scare at their home.
"So do you think ... in your 'who knows, what could happen' scenario that since 2014 when I bought the shotgun, I could never find the key?" she shot back at the former senator.
But the judge sustained an objection to her question from Stephen Gassman, Alfonse D'Amato's attorney, and the former senator didn't have to answer her.
The judge said he soon would make his ruling on temporary child custody, and also set a June 7 conference date to discuss the couple's divorce and permanent child custody case.
"It's strange, it's unfortunate and obviously a new experience for me," Katuria D'Amato said later about questioning her estranged spouse, adding that she had become "exhausted" by watching her children "suffer" under the current custody arrangement.
Gassman called the day's proceedings "very unusual," but added that Katuria D'Amato "in no way refuted the very pervasive proof we put on in our case in terms of what really happened."
Alfonse D'Amato said after court that the way he and Katuria's one-time happy life together was ending "was a tragedy, particularly for the kids."
"To hear her make up stories, to hear her try to reinvent what took place that night ... it's sad," the former senator added.