The Oneida County District Attorney’s Office seeks to compel a Utica firefighter to turn over DNA evidence after he allegedly committed a sexual act while on duty.
Officials say Richard Forte has not yet been charged with a crime, but the DA’s office wants him to turn over a DNA swab because he’s believed to have masturbated into a female firefighter’s work pants while on duty.
The incident allegedly occurred between Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 at the District Five firehouse on Van Rensselaer Avenue in Utica.
The alleged victim took the witness stand in Oneida County Court on Tuesday, and she said that just before leaving her shift on the morning of Jan. 6, she found that the pants she had left lying on her bed were soiled with a bodily fluid. They were turned over to police and following an investigation, police collected DNA samples from several other firefighters on duty, except for Forte, who refused.
“So, when it is something that requires some kind of bodily intrusion, we have to get what’s called an order to show cause,” said Dawn Lupi, first assistant district attorney for the Oneida County DA’s Office.
The defense argues that doors may have been left unlocked overnight. However, during questioning, each witness testified that they believed the building was secure when they turned in for bed that night.
Both parties are scheduled to appear back in Oneida County Court on Friday morning, where the judge will decide whether to accept or reject an order for Forte to give a DNA sample.
“It's basically us saying we want it, and the judge saying okay, well, why shouldn't I grant this, or why should I grant it?” Lupi said.
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri issued a statement Tuesday saying that once he had been made aware of the possible sexual harassment situation, he directed the Utica Police Department to conduct a full investigation, which is currently ongoing.
“It is important the public fully understands the city of Utica, and my administration, have zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” Palmieri said in the release. “We take all allegations of sexual harassment seriously by thorough investigation, discipline and when appropriate, referral to law enforcement.”
Palmieri says that although it’s not standard procedure to comment on pending litigation, due to the significance of sexual harassment he believed it’s imperative that the public is aware of the facts. He says that his statement released Tuesday will be the city’s only comment until the matter is completed.