Following a lengthy investigation, the Vermont State Police has cited Leonard Forte, 79, of LaBelle, Florida, on suspicion of two counts of obstruction of justice. The charges arise from an ongoing criminal prosecution related to allegations that Forte raped a young girl more than 30 years ago in Vermont.
Pilice say Forte, who was described as a former law enforcement officer with the New York Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, was convicted by a Vermont jury in 1988 of three counts of rape of a 12-year-old girl. Forte appealed his conviction, and a motion for a new trial was granted in 1989.
Between 1989-1996, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office twice went to the Vermont Supreme Court in attempts to get the new trial order set aside and the verdict reinstated. In 1997, the Attorney General’s Office refiled charges, and Forte, who indicated he was awaiting a heart transplant, claimed he was too sick to stand trial. The state of Vermont entered into a stipulation with Forte that he provide the state with a medical update every six months.
From 1997 until November 2019, the state of Vermont relied on representations in Forte’s medical records, including his admission to hospice in 2016, that he was physically unable to travel. In November 2019, an investigative report in USA Today called into question Forte’s claims of his dire physical condition.
Members of the Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, in collaboration with special agents assigned to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, conducted a joint investigation into Forte’s claims.
Investigators determined that Forte misrepresented his health claims and his inability to travel to Vermont. Based on these allegations, Forte will be charged with two counts of Obstruction of Justice.
Forte was issued a citation through his attorney to appear for arraignment at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, in the Criminal Division of Vermont Superior Court in Bennington. This case is being prosecuted by members of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.