CANTON — Convicted child rapist Mark A. Hartle was denied a motion filed in St. Lawrence County Court seeking to have his conviction vacated based upon allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and newly discovered evidence denied.
On Aug. 15, 2016, Hartle, 53, formerly of Gouverneur, now an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, was sentenced to 54 years in prison in St. Lawrence County Court for the 2014 rape and sexual abuse of a teenage girl after being found guilty following a trial in county court on all 24 counts related to his having sexual contact and sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion with a then-15-year-old girl during the summer and fall of 2014 in the towns of Gouverneur and Rossie.
The charges included four counts of first-degree rape, four counts of third-degree rape, four counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, five counts of third-degree criminal sexual act and four counts of first-degree sexual abuse, all felonies. Hartle also faced three counts of misdemeanor third-degree sexual abuse.
His sentence was later reduced to 50 years by the state Supreme Court Appellate Division Third Judicial Department. On March 8, 2018, the Third Department denied an appeal by Hartle.
In his newest motion, filed on his behalf by attorney John A. Cirando, which was opposed by District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua’s office and was denied by St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards on July 11, Hartle alleged that his trial attorney, Emil Rossi, failed to disclose that he had previously represented former District Attorney Mary E. Rain and concluded that representation in December 2014, prior to her prosecution of him.
He also claimed that he obtained newly discovered evidence in the form of previously deleted text messages and photographs that were recovered from the child victim’s cellphone through a forensic retrieval process known as “rooting.”
Hartle argued that the technology had not previously existed at the time of his trial and that the text messages and photos that he had previously been deleted from his phone would show that his sexual interactions with the child were not forced.
He also states the messages and photos, had they been available at trial, would have called into question the credibility of the child victim, who testified against him, “and ultimately resulted in a more favorable outcome” for him.
In denying the motion in its entirety, Judge Richards wrote that Hartle both “received meaningful representation of counsel” and “the materials proffered by the defendant do not constitute newly discovered evidence as contemplated by state Criminal Procedure Law 440.10, or motion to vacate judgment.”
Among the reasons for ruling the tests and photos not to be new evidence, Judge Richards wrote, “... the Court finds that defendant’s portrayal of the recovered photographs and text messages as newly discovered evidence is inaccurate.”
“Defendant concedes that he knew the media existed prior to trial, that he actively endeavored to delete the evidence from his cell phone, and that he advised his trial attorneys of this,” Judge Richards wrote. “Defendant now attempts to offer the photographs and text messages as newly discovered evidence based upon their subsequent retrieval from his cell phone.”
The conduct was “flawed,” the judge wrote, and Hartle “knew full well of the communications” and the facts they contained at the time of trial.