April 12, 2008 Modica pleads guilty to sex with teens
The Journal News
NEW CITY - A former prosecutor admitted in court yesterday that she had sex with two teenage boys in her Sloatsburg home during the summer.
Beth Modica, 44, a PTA mother of four children, faces a maximum sentence of two years in state prison at her June sentencing on yesterday's guilty pleas to felony charges of third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act. She faced 1 1/2 to four years on each felony count.
The judge ordered Modica held in Rockland County jail until her June 13 sentencing. Jail officials transferred Modica to an upstate facility for her protection.
Based on her guilty plea, Modica also faces 10 years post-release supervision, registering as a sex offender and paying about $1,300 in DNA testing and court fees. She also will be disbarred.
Modica's lawyer, Gerard Damiani of New City, still hopes to persuade acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett to sentence Modica to county jail time or probation. A presentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 4.
Standing with Damiani yesterday in the courtroom, Modica admitted that in July she had intercourse with a 15-year-old boy in her bed and gave oral sex to a 16-year-old boy in the bathroom of her house.
She softly answered "yes" to at times graphic questions about her sexual acts from Supervising Assistant District Attorney Dominic Crispino.
Modica admitted she knew that both Suffern High School boys - who were friends with her eldest son - were underage when she had sex with them. She had been accused of providing oral sex to the 15-year-old on several other occasions.
As she pleaded guilty, Modica's mother and brother listened in the courtroom. So did her estranged husband, Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica, who sat on the other side of the courtroom from Modica's mother with his hands clenched in his lap.
Modica was indicted in January on five felony sex counts, five misdemeanor counts of third-degree sexual abuse and 25 misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The endangering counts involved the providing or sharing of alcohol and marijuana with the two boys and five other minors during July and August. She did not plead to those counts.
Damiani said he has found 15 cases, including several in New York, involving people convicted of such nonviolent felonies like statutory rape receiving sentences ranging from probation to a year in jail.
He also said Modica suffered what psychiatrists would call "disassociation." He has cited her civic works and life as a mother and as a prosecutor and municipal lawyer, jobs she lost because of her actions.
"Her conduct was an aberration," Damiani said. "She has acknowledged her responsibility since the beginning. She didn't want to put her family or any of the quote unquote victims through a trial."
Damiani said matrimonial and custody issues delayed her decision to plead guilty, as well as her desire to avoid a state prison sentence.
Damiani said he asked for a pre-sentence hearing to press for a lesser sentence and to discuss any potential issues with the presentence report. Usually, lawyers receive those reports a few days before sentencing.
"We hope to convince the judge to give her a more reasonable sentence," he said.
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said yesterday that the state prison sentence was the harshest he knew of for such a case.
Zugibe said he considered Modica a child predator and the teen males victims, even if they and some other people in society don't. He noted the law doesn't distinguish between gender.
"The fact that the victims are males as opposed to females is irrelevant," Zugibe said. "The psychological impact on the male victim is not always known. I am certain there are long-term effects on the kids."
Curtis St. John, national president of MaleSurvivor in Westchester, said the teenagers likely will feel the effects of being sexually preyed upon in their 30s. Older women often target younger men for a sense of power.
St. John called it wrong thinking to believe these teenagers are "lucky" for "scoring with an older woman." He said many of those young men grow up to have bad relationships with women, suffer from depression and other issues involving control over others.
"Hopefully when they are in their 30s, married twice, have problems relating to their children and can't maintain a relationship, they will explore these teenage events as a reason with a therapist," St. John said.
St. John hesitated to characterize Modica's potential prison sentence as too lenient or harsh, saying he had confidence in the region's prosecutors to make the right decisions.
He said what's important is Modica get the needed help. He said post-release supervision for sex offenders is not easy, but therapy and attention from a probation officer can make a repeat offense less likely.
"I am not concerned about what she gets as long as she gets the help she needs, not the help she wants," St. John said.