A Nassau judge presiding over the child custody case of former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato declined Tuesday to impose a gag order on the parties but ordered the divorcing couple not to disparage each other in front of their children.
In a three-page ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lorintz ordered D’Amato and his estranged wife, Katuria D’Amato, not to make any “disparaging remarks about the other to the children or to any other person in the presence of the children or to any other person who is likely to disclose any disparaging remarks to the children.”
The request for a gag order was made by Mark Green, an attorney representing the D’Amatos’ 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.
The move came after Katuria D’Amato released a March 2017 cellphone video showing the former senator cursing and screaming at her while she was hospitalized after neck surgery. The video was reported on by Newsday, the New York Post and the Daily News.
In court filings, Green asked Lorintz to block Alfonse D’Amato, 80, a lobbyist, and Katuria D’Amato, 52, a lawyer, along with their respective attorneys, from discussing the case with members of the press.
“The purpose of this application is to protect the children’s psychological health and well-being from further distress, public ridicule and humiliation,” Green wrote.
Green argued that releasing the nearly eight-minute video, “may gratify some personal private spite of one of the parties but it is disturbingly detrimental to the children’s psychological well-being.”
Alfonse D’Amato’s attorney Stephen Gassman said in court Tuesday that the video “has to embarrass and humiliate the children.”
But Thomas Liotti, who represents Katuria D’Amato, said the video has not been viewed by the children and that a gag order would limit his ability to advocate for his client.
“This is a First Amendment issue of the highest priority,” he told the judge before the ruling. “You cannot gag me. You cannot gag the press. You cannot gag my client.”
Lorintz agreed that the video has the potential to harm the children but stopped short of a formal order. He also declined to rule on a request to seal the courtroom from the media during testimony related directly to the D’Amato children.
In the video, shot at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, Katuria D’Amato is heard crying and pleading with her husband to stop “yelling” at her.
At one point in the video, Alfonse D’Amato said he was “sick and [expletive] tired of being treated like I’m nothing.”
Liotti is seeking to have the video admitted as evidence in the child custody matter. Katuria D’Amato contends that her children, who spend four days a week with their father, are verbally abused by him.
Lorintz gave temporary custody to the ex-senator after he questioned Katuria D’Amato’s mental stability following the Sept. 30 police response to her Lido Beach home — an event leading to her involuntary hospital stay.