Attorney Sam’s Take: Well-Known “Power Broker”/Criminal Defendant Is Arrested On Outstanding Default Warrant In Decades-Old Sex Case

Some people can always be found in one type of court or another. Take, for example, New York City basketball czar Ernest Lorch. He was arrested this week by the United States Marshals Service after failing to appear for arraignment on sex abuse charges out of Massachusetts last week.

Lorch is apparently 77 and the founder of the famed Riverside Church basketball program. One would imagine that he has been around enough to know that when you are summonsed to appear in court, particularly in a criminal matter, you had best show up. Failing to do so results in nastiness like default warrants and heavy bail conditions. Nevertheless, it would seem that this information had heretofore been lost on Mr. Lorch who was taken into custody at a Westchester County assisted-living facility by the federal marshals.

According to accounts, he was later released on a $25,000 bond and must appear in court on December 3rd in White Plains for an extradition hearing. One would imagine that he has now learned the importance of actually showing up in the courts of Justice as he did for the courts of basketball.

Now, you may be wondering, “Isn’t this a bit overkill, Sam? How much trouble could an aging church basketball legend be in?”

After all, Lorch’s fame includes the founding of the Riverside Church Hawks basketball program in the 1960s. It grew into one of the nation’s best known basketball programs and was represented on the court by the likes of Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Elton Brand and Ron Artest over the years. The ability to influence players’ college decisions made Lorch a major power broker in the metro area.

So…how serious could this criminal charge be?

Well, Mr. Lorch is actually is accused of assaulting and attempting to rape a 17-year-old boy during a trip to the University of Massachusetts in the late 1970s. The alleged victim, now 50, contacted authorities in Massachusetts earlier this year. Lorch was indicted by a Massachusetts grand jury last month on two sex-abuse charges.

Mr. Lorch’s attorney says that he will challenge extradition and that his client is in failing health.

As authoritative as such a position may seem, it is virtually meaningless in the eyes of the criminal justice system. An extradition hearing is basically a hearing held in one state when someone is detained because of charges in a different court. The purpose is to ensure that the correct person has been detained. The issue is really one of identity. Often, a defendant waives extradition so that he or she can claim being cooperative and just get the return to the jurisdiction desirous of his or her company over with.

In other words, if this Mr. Lorch is the same Mr. Lorch that Massachusetts wants…he will soon be coming back.

Meanwhile, what went on in Mr. Lorch’s mind when he found out about the charges? Had he received word and simply looked at his 77 year old face in the mirror and asked, “What’re they, kidding?”

Here is an inside tip; this is seldom a way that the Commonwealth seeks its laughs.

Meanwhile, there is another issue that is likely to be raised in this matter. The event at issue in this matter dates back to the 1970’s. Isn’t this just the type of occurrence that the applicable statute of limitations (the law that places a time limit in which prosecutors can bring criminal charges against a potential defendant) was created to prevent?

Basically, yes. However, as is the case with most such statutes, there are exceptions. For example, if it can be shown that the, now 50-year-old, ex-youth had buried the memory of the events until fairly recently, then the statute can effectively be tolled (or delayed) until the time that the memory returned.

There is, after all, an issue of fundamental fairness involved here. How would you set out to demonstrate your innocence if someone came up to you to accuse you of attempting to do something to them around 30 – 40 years ago?

Of course, as we all know, that wouldn’t really be a problem, now would it? After all, as we lawyers tell you all the time…you would have the burden to prove nothing! It s the government that bares that burden.

Now, isn’t that a comfort?

Well, anyway, getting back to reality…one never knows when the finger of accusation might come flying at them from either the recent or distant past. When it happens, though, do not try the “let’s ignore it- can’t be real” approach. It is seldom successful. Instead, seek out and retain experienced counsel who understands the issues in such matters.

It is the closest that you will actually come to forcing the Commonwealth to prove its burden instead of tossing said burden onto your shoulders.

If you are facing the finger of accusation and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.

Have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!
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