|Some Arrested in Bedford Rest-Stop Sex Sting Plead Guilty
By Melanie Plenda
November 2, 2007
BEDFORD - A few of the 20 men arrested last week during a rest-stop sex sting off Interstate 684 pleaded guilty during arraignment hearings last night in Town Court, while some - including a priest accused of forcible touching - did not show up.
The Rev. Gary Mead, 44, a Catholic priest from Millwood assigned to St. Gregory Barbarigo parish in Garnerville, did not come to court but was represented by attorney Scot Hersh of Peekskill.
Mead was formally charged with one violation count of loitering and with forcible touching, a misdemeanor, last night during the arraignment.
Judge Charles Banks nearly issued a bench warrant for the priest until Hersh pointed out that his client wasn't legally obligated to attend the hearing.
"He was given only a desk appearance ticket," Hersh told several reporters outside the courtroom. The lawyer described such a ticket issued for violation charges as merely "an invitation to appear."
Hersh went on to say that Mead would have been obligated to appear if he had been given a summons or warrant, issued for more serious misdemeanors and felonies.
Mead pleaded not guilty to both charges, Hersh said.
Police say Mead tried to touch an undercover officer during the sting operation in the woods behind the rest stop.
Hersh said Mead denies being in the wooded area.
"He has and will enter a plea of not guilty," Hersh said. "The facts of the case are not going to be debated here tonight."
Mead, who lives in Rockland, claims he stopped at the service area while on his way home from visiting friends in Kent, Hersh said. While this seems a circuitous route to get back to Rockland, Hersh said Mead took I-684 to I-287 to get home and declined further explanation.
Hersh also said that Mead's parish was not supporting his defense in any way and that as of yesterday afternoon, Mead was no longer the pastor of St. Gregory Barbarigo. He declined to comment further on this issue as well.
A few of the defendants pleaded guilty last night, including, Reuben Sandoval, Patrick Hanley and Frank Gabriel. All pleaded guilty to violation loitering charges and were fined.
Shawn M. Cromwell, 29, of Pleasant Valley, a Level 2 sex offender, was charged with public lewdness, loitering and trespass. He was convicted in 1997 of first-degree sexual abuse in Dutchess County involving a 9-year-old boy. The judge entered a not-guilty plea for Cromwell after he asked for an attorney and his case was adjourned for two weeks.
The undercover operation began after a father who was taking his 10-year-old son to a Yankees game stopped to use the bathroom and wrote a letter to police, complaining of what they saw there, said state Capt. Robert Meyers, the Troop K state police commander in Westchester.
"We simply will not tolerate this type of behavior," the captain said in the wake of the arrests.
Police also said someone had drilled a hole in a men's room at the rest area to spy on those using the urinals. The hole is being repaired and, police officials warned, the men who meet other men for anonymous sex there should be on guard.
Reach Melanie Plenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-696-8570.
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