Ex-York child speech therapist withdraws guilty plea in child-rape case connected to NYPD predator cop
A former York-area child speech therapist who already served time in federal prison for sexually exploiting a 2-year-old boy at the direction of a then-New York City police sergeant withdrew her guilty plea Friday in York County Court.
Leigh Anne Marcini, now of Oley, Berks County, was supposed to be sentenced Friday morning by Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness, but instead Ness allowed the woman to take back her guilty pleas on multiple counts, including child rape.
She was one of several women who sent images of themselves sexually abusing children to ex-NYPD Sgt. Alberto Randazzo, state and federal officials have said.
The defense asked to withdraw the guilty pleas because senior deputy prosecutor Erin Kraska planned to seek a mandatory sentencing enhancement that would have compelled the judge to impose a 10- to 20-year prison sentence. Ness ruled Marcini's pleas had been unlawfully induced because it was unclear the prosecution would seek the mandatory sentence.
Marcini, 43, is now scheduled to have a nonjury trial, called a bench trial, before Ness on Oct. 12.
After leaving the courtroom in tears, Marcini dropped to her knees and sobbed in a seventh-floor hallway.
She pleaded guilty in June to the felonies of child rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, corruption of a minor, photographing or filming a sex act on a child, disseminating such photos, possession of child pornography and using an electronic device in a crime. She also pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of indecent assault against a child, according to court records.
No plea agreement: It had been an open plea, meaning there was no agreement between the defense and prosecution on her prison sentence.
At Friday's hearing, Kraska told the judge that she had been open to considering a sentencing recommendation from a mitigation expert retained by the defense.
But that expert's report showed Marcini tried to minimize her criminal conduct in her interview with him, Kraska maintains — a conclusion defense attorney Robert Datner said he disagrees with.
"My client's been consistent … about the facts of the case," he said.
Kraska told Ness that if he finds Marcini guilty of child rape, the prosecution will again seek the mandatory 10- to 20-year state prison sentence.
The prosecutor also said she is considering filing additional charges if the case ends up going to trial.
Kraska said those new charges would be for Marcini allegedly driving the 2-year-old to Bethlehem and trafficking him to Randazzo. After the hearing, Kraska declined to provide more details about those allegations.
"I don't even know what they're talking about," Datner said after the hearing.
The background: After Marcini's 2015 arraignment in Brooklyn's federal district court, her former local attorney, Jay Whittle, told The York Dispatch that Marcini wanted to begin serving her punishment right away.
"She fully confessed," Whittle said at the time, adding there was no clear answer as to why she did it.
"She doesn't really know how this happened. She can't pinpoint a reason or any motivating factor, or even how it developed," he said. "She was just really wrapped up in feeling wanted by Randazzo … and she just fell into it."
Marcini "created a fantasy world online where she was manipulated by Alberto Randazzo, who had successfully received these types of images from four or five other women," according to Whittle. "She's very remorseful, and she keeps focused on (whether the) child is going to be OK."
Court documents state Marcini exchanged hundreds of text messages with Randazzo regarding her sexually abusing a toddler and photographing the abuse so he could see it.
Marcini was sentenced to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to sexually exploit a child, served her time and was released. She was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release, which is the federal version of probation.
During her probation she must submit to polygraph testing, to ensure she is abiding by her release conditions, federal court records state.
Ex-cop serving time: In April 2017, Randazzo was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison, according to records.
Homeland Security investigators found 722 messages Marcini and Randazzo sent to each other via computer between April and June 2012, according to court documents. In those messages, the two allegedly discussed in explicit terms her sexually abusing the 2-year-old boy, documents state.
At one point Marcini wrote, "Wow I can't believe I snagged a NYPD cop! Im smitten :)," York County court documents state.
Marcini's federal arrest-warrant affidavit states she admitted to performing oral sex on the boy and sending at least one image or video of it to Randazzo.
Court documents indicate that around the time of her arrest, Marcini was a speech language pathologist in York County who listed her occupation as "speech therapist, birth to 3 program."
She voluntarily surrendered her state license in December 2015, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.