By Dustin Brown

A federal judge imposed a nine-year sentence Thursday on a Glendale man who was convicted last year on charges of attempted aggravated sexual abuse for harassing a woman when both were cadets at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island.

Francis Crowley, 25, is expected to surrender to authorities on July 20 to begin his sentence, said his attorney, Mike Shaw.

“I have thought that his conviction for aggravated sexual abuse was a terrible miscarriage of justice and I thought his sentence of nine years in prison was outrageous,” said Shaw, who is planning an appeal.

The nine-year term was the minimum allowed under sentencing guidelines, according to federal attorney Cynthia Monaco, who prosecuted the case with Debra Newman. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 11 years and three months.

Crowley was also ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution to cover the psychiatric bills and legal fees the victim incurred, Monaco said.

Although Shaw said his client would have faced a sentence of only a few months had the case been tried in state court, where he was originally charged, his former lawyers argued that it was a federal case because the incident occurred on federal property, Monaco said.

Crowley was found guilty Nov. 27 of one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse by a federal court jury in Central Islip. He was acquitted on another charge of attempted sexual abuse.

The jury also acquitted his co-defendant, Steven Valjato of Richmond Hill, on the same charges.

Crowley is the cousin of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and the brother of Elizabeth Crowley, who lost a city council election to Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) in November.

The charges stemmed from an early morning incident that took place Sept. 28, 1997 in the victim’s dorm room at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point on Long Island.

According to the federal complaint dated August 1998, Crowley and Valjato entered the victim’s room at 4:50 a.m. to speak with her roommate but began harassing her when she refused to smoke drugs with them.

In an interview shortly after the conviction, Newman said Crowley had pinned the victim down in her bed while Valjato allegedly stood by his side and prevented her from exiting the room.

“The evidence revealed that he and the co-defendant basically cornered the victim as she was laying in her dormitory bed and used force, fear and threats in an attempt to engage her to perform in a sexual act,” Newman said at the time.

Crowley fondled the victim’s breasts, according to the complaint, and attempted to perform oral sex on her, Newman said.

They left the room after she persistently refused to give in, the complaint said.

Shaw said the nine-year sentence is unjust because Crowley “voluntarily left her room.”

“I believe it is beyond belief that a sentence of that length could be imposed,” he said.

Both Crowley and Valjato resigned from the academy when a formal investigation into the incident was launched, according to the criminal complaint.

A 1999 conviction of Crowley and Valjato on both charges was thrown out by the U.S. Court of Appeals in August 2000, which ruled that the jury should have been allowed to consider the men’s intoxication at the time of the incident.

The case was heard in federal court because it took place on the campus of the Merchant Marine Academy, where there is exclusive federal jurisdiction, Newman said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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