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For five years a suspected pervert charged with sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in Astoria Park walked the streets after jumping his $50,000 bail. Peter Belgrinos was nabbed last week at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam when airport officials discovered there was an Interpol warrant for his arrest.
Belgrinos is fighting extradition, but this will only delay his return to New York. If convicted, he faces 15 years in prison for the sexual assault of a minor and an additional four years for bail jumping. Meanwhile, serious questions have been raised about the way the justice system handled this case.
Police say Belgrinos approached three children and tried to get them to play a “kissing game” with him. Two of the children ran. Police say Belgrinos allegedly chased the third victim, grabbed her and covered her mouth when she tried to scream, said the DA. He punched the child in the face, put his hand up her dress and sexually assaulted her, according to the DA.
If the police presented evidence at his arraignment, then it is hard to imagine how any judge could consider $50,000 a reasonable bail.
And how was it possible for Belgrinos to leave the country? We assume the court asked him to surrender his passport — standard procedure after a violent felony arrest. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has questioned why he and other electeds were not notified the first time Belgrinos failed to appear in court.
This failure on the part of the justice system put every child in Queens at risk. In the future, the courts should require alleged sexual predators to submit to electronic monitoring. Modern ankle bracelets can be used to track the wearer’s movements. If the bracelet is removed, law enforcement is notified instantly. If an alleged sexual predator jumps bail, the community should be notified immediately.
In a statement, Queens DA said, “If the defendant thought that law-enforcement authorities would forget about him after five years, he was sadly mistaken. His long overdue arrest also proves the old adage ‘You can run, but you cannot hide.”
With the exception of murder, there is no crime more serious than the sexual assault of a child.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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