Tonawanda News

March 6, 2014

Reprieve possible in NT sex abuse case

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A North Tonawanda man took a plea deal Wednesday in Niagara County Court after already serving seven years in prison for sexually assaulting a child on a range of charges that were later called into question by New York’s highest court. 

Michael J. Solomon, 48, was found guilty in 2005 on 23 counts of a 32-count indictment and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. 

But many of those charges were overturned by the New York State Court of Appeals last year after it came to light that his court-appointed public defender had once conducted private legal work for a North Tonawanda police officer who testified against Solomon, his new defense team said. 

Solomon now faces a single count of attempted first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child. As part of the plea his sentence will now be capped at 12 years, according to Solomon’s attorney, Steven Cohen, who represented Solomon as co-council along with Glenn Pincus, both of the law firm Hogan Willig. 

Cohen said Solomon’s initial conviction was overturned “for a series of errors that the court of appeals felt required a remand.”

“The original trial resulted in an injustice,” Cohen said. “All charges vacated.” 

His client on Wednesday accepted a plea deal tendered last month by the Niagara County District Attorney’s office with the looming threat of a second jury trial set for March 31. 

“In the last two weeks both the prosecution and defense have had an opportunity to examine the existing evidence,” Cohen said. “Both sides determined that this plea would represent a much fairer disposition than the (previous) court.” 

Solomon was a teacher at several Wheatfield religious schools when he was convicted on a slew of charges including nine counts of rape, seven counts of criminal sexual act and four counts of use of a child in a sexual performance. Prosecutors at the time said the incidents took place over a five-year period. He also taught music classes at a North Tonawanda music school on Oliver Street. 

Cohen said none of the alleged incidents took place while he was teaching. 

“Mr. Solomon has no prior criminal record whatsoever. He has taught school without any complaints,” Cohen said.

Solomon’s fate will now rest in the hands of Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas when he is returned to court May 2 for sentencing. Farkas could sentence Solomon to up to three more years in prison or set him free. He is being held without bail until that court date.