Today’s news:

Cambria Heights man cleared of rape charge

The prosecutor had alleged that Samuel Needham, 52 of Cambria Heights had raped the 15-year-old girl at her grandparents' Queens Village home on Feb. 22, 2003. Needham was a friend of the family, according to defense attorney Joseph LoPiccolo. The girl took the stand at the trial against the objections of LoPiccolo."She has the mental capacity of a 5- to 6-year-old," he said in an interview after the acquittal. "She had told a court psychologist she did not know the consequences of lying." State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman ruled against the defense and allowed the girl to take the stand. She identified Needham as the man who attacked her. A spokesman for the Queens district attorney had no comment on the case other than to say "we accept the verdict."According to LoPiccolo, the girl did not say anything about the alleged incident for two days and was not taken to the doctor until the day after she told her mother. When an exam was taken at that time ,it showed no evidence of sexual intercourse and was sent to the district attorney's office, where it was lost, he said. A second test was taken three months later and Assistant DA Denis Tirino told jurors it did show evidence that the girl had had sexual intercourse. LoPiccolo said it could not be determined when or if the sex was consensual or rape-related because it was believed to have been the girl's first time. The judge admitted the results of the first test as evidence in the case because the defense and the prosecution had agreed to allow it, although the actual copy of the test was missing, LoPiccolo said. He also said there was no police investigation to determine if anyone else had sex with the girl in the time between the first and second tests. This claim could not be independently verified. Needham was facing seven years in jail if he had been convicted. LoPiccolo said he does not expect a civil case or any other litigation against his client."He is relieved and happy to get back to a normal lifestyle," said LoPiccolo. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173

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