In April 1989, in Manlius, New York, Kenneth Pavel was arrested for sexually abusing his 5 and 7-year-old sons while vacationing in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Pavel’s ex-wife brought the abuse allegations to the attention of the police. At trial in Onondaga County Superior Court, the boys testified that Pavel had abused them repeatedly. The boys’ therapist testified that they had spoken about the abuse, and a medical examiner testified that physical examinations of one of the boys showed some marks that could be consistent with sexual abuse.
Pavel’s attorney failed to develop a defense because he assumed that the case would be dismissed, failed to call fact witnesses who would have established Pavel’s alibi and his ex-wife’s mental instability, and failed to call any medical experts to contradict the prosecution’s expert testimony. Pavel was the only defense witness and he denied sexually abusing the boys.
Pavel was convicted of rape, sexual assault, and child endangerment after a bench trial in October 1989. He was sentenced to 8-to-24-years.
Pavel was paroled almost nine years later—on August 25, 1998. One of the conditions of his parole was that he "cooperate fully" with a sex-offender program. As part of the program, Pavel was required to admit having committed the crimes for which he was convicted. When he refused to do so, he was returned to prison on November 15, 1999.
In 1995, Pavel filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus but it was denied. But in July 2001, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated Pavel’s conviction and ordered a new trial The court held that Pavel's defense lawyer had failed to call witnesses, including medical experts, who could have contradicted the prosecution's evidence.
The prosecution dismissed the charges in October 2001.
- Stephanie Denzel