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Sentencing postponed for ex-banana mogul Thomas Hoey Jr. in assault case as woman opposes ban on contact

Long Island banana mogul Thomas Hoey Jr.'s sentencing for an assault on his girlfriend was postponed Friday amid a dispute over the woman's opposition to a ban on contact between the two while Hoey is jailed.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Daniel P. Fitzgerald said the girlfriend, who has long contended that Hoey did not abuse her, needs to be interviewed by a probation officer before he sentences Hoey and rules on prosecutors' request for a restraining order to keep the two apart.

"He's going to be spending the next decade in prison," said defense lawyer Eric Franz. "If she wants to visit him under the supervision of guards, there comes a point where this state-sponsored breakup should be tempered with reality."

The postponement of sentencing until Feb. 13 marked the latest twist in the legal travails of Hoey, 46, of Garden City, the owner of Long Island Banana Co. He was convicted in May of a bloody 2012 assault on the girlfriend in a Manhattan apartment building and of tampering with evidence.

The jury verdict was based on testimony from a neighbor, police, the girlfriend's relatives and a domestic abuse expert. The woman, a former Ivy League swimmer, did not testify. Newsday does not name alleged victims of domestic violence.

Hoey also pleaded guilty in August in federal court in Manhattan to distributing cocaine to a woman who died of an overdose at a 2009 sex party in his hotel suite, and obstruction of justice. Jailed in that case for a year, he is due for sentencing in January, with a significant prison term expected.

In the assault case, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office has asked Fitzgerald to sentence Hoey to 11/3 to 4 years in prison and to prohibit contact with the girlfriend for eight years to eliminate "intimidation and psychological manipulation" that prosecutors say keeps her in an abusive relationship.

The girlfriend, in a letter to the judge, wrote that she "savors" regular jail visits with Hoey, who is separated from his wife, and is being victimized by prosecutors.

"I am the best judge of whether I am in need of protection," she argued. "I believe that the pendulum in this matter has swung too far when women like me are silenced by telling them what is best for them despite continued attempts to request otherwise."

She declined to comment as she was leaving court.

Franz has urged the judge to refuse a restraining order and to sentence Hoey to less than 60 days in jail -- a cutoff point under federal sentencing guidelines that would keep him from facing a harsher federal sentence due to the state conviction.

Long Island Banana Co. is involved in federal bankruptcy proceedings.

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