MALONE — Michael J. Scaringe was “a wolf within the lambs,” using his job as director of the Saranac Lake Youth Center to prey upon a 13-year-old girl, a judge said Friday.
Scaringe, 64, of Old Colby Road, Saranac Lake was sentenced in Franklin County Court by St. Lawrence County Supreme Court Judge Kathleen Rogers to seven years in state prison after being convicted of second-degree rape for the Dec. 23, 2009, incident.
He was also sentenced to two concurrent one-year terms in County Jail for sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
Scaringe will spend seven years on post-release supervision and was ordered to pay about $1,500 in court fees and surcharges.
An order of protection for 10 years was issued for the victim.
A notice of appeal will be filed on Scaringe’s behalf.
Dressed in a two-piece orange inmate uniform and chained about the waist and ankles, Scaringe appeared without the wig he wore throughout his trial to conceal his pattern baldness.
He did not speak during the brief court session, but defense attorney Mary Rain said her client should not be sentenced to the maximum prison term because “very rarely does a defendant get the maximum for their first conviction ever in their lifetime.”
She instead asked for the minimum of two years in prison, saying, “it’s the first time, and he’s 64 years old.”
Rogers noted Scaringe had a chance to plead guilty to a lesser prison term — an offer she said she was loathe to agree to because of the seriousness of the crime — but he chose to go to trial instead of sparing the young victim from further damage.
The judge said a community works to protect children, teaching them not to get in cars with strangers, to go to church and school to learn to live a good, moral life and to play sports to be safe and stay off the streets.
They also go to youth centers to have a safe place to hang around with friends, she said.
But in those places, “we find a wolf within the lambs, people in a position of authority who take advantage of vulnerable people.”
Rogers said Scaringe employed a “calculated use of authority on a vulnerable girl looking for any adult in her life to show her kindness and affection.”
She said the girl wanted to participate in school events and youth activities, like other kids, and that Scaringe took her to cheerleading practice, bought her a cellphone, gave her little gifts “and was kind to her mother, a mother wanting to talk more about money than the damage to her daughter.”
Rogers said the child thought that allowing sexual contact with Scaringe was OK at first, but as things progressed to sex, she didn’t want that. At the same time, the teen wanted to be close to him.
Then she was put on the witness stand, “confronted by the whole community, and had to tell that she had sex with an old man,” only to become open to attack by the defense.
“The defendant had unprotected sex that could have left her pregnant,” Rogers said. “He is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Because she was victimized by Scaringe, the girl has difficulty relating to other men without sexualizing her behavior.
“He carefully chose her and endangered her health and mental health,” the judge said. “A person in authority should not be able to do this.”
Scaringe was convicted of second-degree rape for having sex with a child under age 15, second-degree sexual abuse for forcing the girl to touch his penis for his sexual gratification and endangering the welfare of a child for grooming the girl to induce her into having sexual intercourse.
It took the six-man, six-woman jury about 6½ hours across two days to reach a verdict.
The jury had heard not only from the now 16-year-old victim but from some of Scaringe’s former students, who had him for a music teacher in the North Country in the 1970s.
Three women testified that, under the name Michael Josephson, he coerced them into sexual encounters when they were young teens. One told of him touching her sexually while they were parked in his car, another said she was molested while on a piano in the school’s music room, and one testified that she was taken to a local motel for sex.
Scaringe was acquitted in 1996 of lewd and lascivious conduct while working as a substitute music teacher at a school in Florida.
District Attorney Derek Champagne said it has taken 37 years to see Scaringe’s “reign of terror” come to an end for what could be countless women who may have been his victims but did not come forward.
He said that since the conviction, another woman has contacted the DA’s Office about her dealings with Scaringe.
“That brings the total to seven,” Champagne said, but that doesn’t include possible victims in other states where Scaringe worked or others who knew him as Michael Josephson, when he had a different Social Security number.
“You typically don’t have another Social Security number and name unless you’re up to something,” the DA said.
Email Denise A. Raymo: email@example.com