WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A child rape case that sparked allegations of interference by a district attorney — the son of TV's Judge Judy — has ended with the acquittal of his close friend.
A Putnam County jury found Alexandru Hossu not guilty Thursday on two counts each of first- and second-degree rape of a 13-year-old girl.
The county's district attorney, Adam Levy, recused himself from the case in March 2013, saying Hossu was a close friend and frequent houseguest. Westchester County prosecutors took over.
But Putnam Sheriff Donald Smith, a fellow Republican and a political rival, said Levy was interfering with the prosecution. Smith said that if Levy had his way, "Mr. Hossu would never have been brought to justice for his crime and Mr. Levy's relationship with him would never have been brought to the light of public scrutiny."
Levy sued the sheriff for $5 million, claiming defamation and calling Smith "an out-of-control sheriff who does not care about the truth." Smith denied defaming Levy. The case is pending.
Levy's mother, Judy Sheindlin, is the star of "Judge Judy" and issued a statement at the time calling her son "principled, honorable and dedicated." On Thursday she said: "The 12 people who had the opportunity to evaluate the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses delivered their verdict. I can only hope that having been acquitted, that Alex can get his life back."
In October, Levy acknowledged he had helped pay for Hossu's defense. And he said he doubted Hossu could hurt a child. Levy's brother-in-law eventually took over the defense.
In November, the prosecutor on the case told the judge Levy was interfering. Some local politicians called for an investigation.
Levy, however, said he had fulfilled his "ethical, moral and legal obligations" by recusing himself and cooperating with the prosecution. No charges have been filed against Levy.
Hossu, a 36-year-old immigrant from Romania who also is Levy's former personal trainer, was accused of raping the daughter of his former girlfriend.
At the trial in Carmel, 50 miles north of Manhattan, the girl testified that Hossu raped her in 2010. She said he "snapped" when she refused his offer for help with her homework.
Hossu did not take the stand, but the evidence included a phone call from the girl to Hossu last year, made at the suggestion of prosecutors and recorded without Hossu's knowledge. On the call, he denied the assault and called the allegations ridiculous.
Jurors heard him say, "I never touched you in an inappropriate manner."
On Wednesday, after three hours of deliberation, the jury reported it was deadlocked, but the judge said to keep trying for a verdict.
A spokeswoman for Levy, Michelle Carter, referred a call for comment to the Westchester district attorney's office. A spokesman there, Lucian Chalfen, said, "The jury heard all the evidence and gave it due consideration, as evidenced by the length of their deliberations and the fact they were initially deadlocked."
Hossu's immigration status is under investigation, and he remained in custody.