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Friday, 15 July 2016 11:40
Child Predator Gannon Convicted Justice Prevails for Courageous Young Victims
BALLSTON SPA — Grown men have been known to tremble in the witness chair, so you can imagine what it must be like for a child to describe a crime in a room full of adults. Two girls did just that, ending their nightmare by helping to close an investigation into six years of sexual assault against them. After a seven-week trial, Arthur Gannon, 48, of Corinth has been convicted of five counts of predatory sexual assault on children, including Class A2 felonies; the only higher level would be murder or kidnapping. The announcement came on Thursday, July 7, from Saratoga County District Attorney Karen A. Heggen, shortly after the jury began and concluded its deliberations and reached the verdict that day. Heggen noted the extraordinary efforts of all involved in this case. “This case started with two brave young women coming forward to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department to report the horrific and repeated abuse they suffered. These young ladies demonstrated courage in facing the defendant Arthur Gannon in court, where they recounted the numerous crimes he committed against them. The jury’s verdict says that the jury believed the frightening details they testified about. It said to these victims that what happened to them was wrong and that Arthur Gannon is held accountable for his criminal actions.” The charges in the indictment stem from Gannon’s actions in the Town of Corinth, Saratoga County, from June 2009 through June 2015. His arrest in July 2015 alleged that he and his wife, Heidi L. Gannon, 40, subjected two young girls to repeated sexual abuse, restraining the children against their will, forcing them to perform or engage in sexual acts, photographing them in the process. The girls are relatives of Gannon, but their names are being withheld to protect their privacy. They and two other children in the Corinth home were put in the care of family members. Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo had nothing but praise for his two investigators, Curtis Brand and Roger Zalucky, and for the district attorney’s office for bringing the case to closure. “It was a team effort and I’m glad the end result was a conviction.” “Justice was served for these victims,” said Deborah Tomaso, executive director of Saratoga Center for the Family. “When justice is served, it comes about through the work and perseverance of many agencies. We were happy to be a part of that process.” Heggen also commended the efforts of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department. “From the day this case was reported to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, the members of that department have worked tirelessly in assembling a thorough, detailed and complete case. The case investigation presented to my office allowed Assistant District Attorney Schettino to assemble a solid and cohesive case for the jury. ADA Michelle Schettino demonstrated each and every day during trial that her trial preparation and collaboration with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department brought a full and comprehensive presentation of all of the facts and evidence for the jury to review and consider. Her dedication to this case was extraordinary.” Schettino’s successful completion of that work was greatly reinforced by the two children coming forward, and fortunately, the support available for child victims to enable them to come forward is excellent in Saratoga County. Zurlo spoke of the ongoing training investigators receive for interview techniques with children and victims of child sexual abuse. The Saratoga Center for the Family assists in that training, and investigators meet there once a month to review cases and critique different scenarios to perfect their work on behalf of the victims and their families. “From the minute this is reported to the members of law enforcement,” said Heggen, “they really follow through in so many ways that make a huge difference for all the victims in many cases involving young victims of sexual abuse, utilizing victims services including places like the Saratoga Center for the Family, such a valuable place to access information and to provide ongoing support, even after the case ends, because victims’ lives go on.” Zurlo said his office deals closely with the Center for the Family. “It’s a tribute to law enforcement to have the Center in the county,” he said, “with interview rooms where we can sit with a child away from our building to find out what took place.” The Saratoga Center for the Family, located at 359 Ballston Avenue in Saratoga Springs, provides child victims advocacy services that range from providing support in the courtroom for victims and their families to connecting them with additional services such as mental health counseling or medical services they might need, and more. Tomaso, said, “The work we do is very sensitive. Our child advocacy center is a child-friendly location for the investigation of alleged child abuse and neglect. It’s where law enforcement and child protective services can interview the child in a warm, child-friendly environment. We are all on the same page, one big team working together, which is about protecting the children and the families as well.” Heggen added that these kinds of crimes happen more frequently than the public may realize, and appreciates organizations like the Center because some victims don’t report to the police, but will still step forward to use the services these organizations provide and seek healing. “We live differently here [in a district attorney’s office], and know that there are people who pray upon vulnerable and innocent victims such as these,” said Heggen. “I’m fortune to have a very committed and dedicated team that primarily focuses on prosecuting with great compassion, dedication and very good results.” “The perception is Saratoga County is an affluent community and things like this don’t happen here,” said Tomaso, “but knowing the services we provide at the Center, we can tell you it most definitely happens.” Specifically, Gannon was convicted of five counts of Predatory Sexual Assault, Class A-II felonies, in violation of Penal Law Sections 130.95(2); 130.95(3) and130.96 (different theories); one count of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance, a Class C Felony, in violation of Penal Law Section 263.05; two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, a Class D Felony, in violation of Penal Law Section 130.65(2), and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A Misdemeanor, in violation of Penal Law Section 260.10(1). The jury returned a guilty verdict on all ten of the charges that were submitted to them. The top counts of the indictment, Class A-II felony charges, carry a maximum sentence of twenty-five years to life in prison, with the possibility for consecutive sentences. The trial was held before Saratoga County Court Judge James A. Murphy, III. The case was investigated by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Michele Schettino and Alan M. Poremba. ADA Schettino called twenty witnesses, including the two victims, who bravely faced the defendant in court to testify. Sentencing is scheduled for September 7 at 9:30 a.m. Gannon faces the potential of consecutive sentences that could total more than 50 years to life.