In January 1995, 16-year-old Stacey Hoehmann told a high school friend that her father, Joseph Hoehmann, had sexually molested her in their home in Nyack, New York. The friend told a priest who told a guidance counselor who then notified child protection officials and police.
When police came to question her about her statement to her friend, Stacey told them about three incidents.
Stacey said that in 1992, when she was 14, her father showed her a pornographic video, asked her to put on her mother’s robe and attempted to have sex with her. They were interrupted, she said, when her mother knocked on the door. In July 1994, she said Hoehmann molested her the night before a party for a priest who was a friend of the family. The third time occurred after Christmas in 1994, she said.
Hoehmann was charged with third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child—both misdemeanors. He was ordered to leave the home and not have contact with Stacey or her five younger siblings.
While he was awaiting trial, a fire broke out in the family home. Hoehmann’s wife called for help and called Hoehmann, who rushed to the home and tried to rescue the couple’s 15-month-old daughter, Allysia, but he could not find her and she perished.
In October 1996, Hoehmann went on trial before Clarkstown Justice Court Judge Victor Alfieri, who heard the case without a jury. Stacey testified to the three incidents that she had described for authorities.
Relatives of the family testified that some of Stacey’s details were incorrect. They testified that the video recorder that she said her father used to show her a pornographic film was in the living room, not her parents’ bedroom. They said that she was cheerful at the party for the priest and even jumped playfully on her father’s back in the swimming pool.
Judge Alfieri convicted Hoehmann of third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. At the sentencing hearing, Stacey testified.
“Maybe nobody else saw what he did, but God did and He’s not going to forget,” she testified. “So if you think it’s over today, it’s not, because your day is still coming. You’re burning in hell for what you did.”
Alfieri sentenced Hoehmann to one year in jail, but allowed him to remain free on bail while the case was appealed.
In March 1998, Stacey wrote a letter to Judge Alfieri saying that her testimony was a lie. She said that none of the incidents occurred and that she had told her friend that her father molested her because she was angry at her father’s strict discipline. The defense then filed a motion to set aside the conviction based on Stacey’s recantation.
At a hearing in June 1998, Stacey said that her father kept her from seeing friends or restricted television time for doing such things as cutting classes. She was angry because she frequently had to stay home to babysit her five younger siblings.
She said she became angrier in 1994 when she was forced to transfer from Nyack High School to an all-girls’ Roman Catholic school, Academy of the Holy Angels, in Demarest, New Jersey. After she punched one of her brothers and bloodied his nose, her father ordered her to find another place to live. Within days, she told her friend that her father had sexually abused her.
Stacey said that the lie snowballed out of control and she began to embellish her story with details to make it seem more credible. She said she was angry at her father because she believed if he had been at home when the fire broke out, her sister would not have died.
As her father’s appeal neared a decision, Stacey feared that he would lose the appeal and he would go to jail, so she decided to recant.
On September 25, 1998, Judge Alfieri granted the motion to vacate Hoehmann’s conviction. The judge ruled that the recantation was credible. The prosecution then dismissed the charges.
– Maurice Possley