HE PERSUADED ME, TEEN BOY TELLS JURY
A Dix Hills man admitted in court that he had engaged in sex acts with his daughter since before she could walk, and that he made photographs of her, and the girl herself, available to other men. As part of a plea bargain in which the man, who is not being identified, will be sentenced to 18 years in prison, he pleaded guilty to first-degree engaging in a course of sexual conduct with a child, three child pornography felonies and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. The man said he engaged in sexual conduct, including oral sex, with the girl since she was several months old. He said he took pictures of her engaging in sexual activity and made them available to other men over the Internet.
One of those men, Bruce Wernick, 47, of Valley Stream, is charged with sodomizing the girl. The father admitted leaving his daughter alone with Wernick several times, knowing Wernick had a sexual interest in children. The father was arrested after he logged onto a chat room and offered to swap his daughter with other men who had young daughters. A Suffolk detective responded as a man claiming to have a 9 year old daughter. While online the man bragged about what he had done to his daughter and said he couldn't wait until she was big enough for him to have sexual intercourse with her. The man spoke before Judge Louis Ohlig sentenced him to 18 years in prison. This case and others like it shouldn't exist, the man said, tearfully reading a statement he had prepared. Certainly, a parent should not victimize his child, but I have done exactly that. I love them so much, and now I will never know them, he said. I just want to hold them tight and be a good father to them, but I can't now. He said he saw a psychiatrist in an attempt to curb his obsession with child pornography and his daughter. I know I needed to stop, he said. I didn't know my actions would hurt so many people. The judge urged the man to make amends with his daughter, a difficult task, considering there is a permanent order of protection that prohibits him from having any contact with her.
Wernick was indicted in Suffolk on charges that he exchanged child pornography with the Dix Hills man and that he sodomized the man's young daughter. He was arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead on an additional charge of possessing more than 500 pornographic images of young children. Wernick, of 318 E. Euclid Street, was taken from Suffolk County jail, where he was being held in lieu of a $500,000 cash bail, to Hempstead and arraigned for possession of a sexual performance by a child under the age of 16. His bail was set at $5,000 bond or $3,500 cash. His attorney says the judge hearing the case is biased and should remove himself from the case. Defense attorney Paul Gianelli based his claim mostly on the word of the co-defendant's lawyer, who said Ohlig insisted in chambers that Gianelli's client is guilty. I want all defendants to get a fair trial, Ohlig said. I've always been a fair judge all these years. Ohlig disqualified himself from presiding over the case but denied in his ruling that he was ever biased against the defendant. Judges are supposed to hear cases impartially and should recuse themselves if they cannot, according to the Code of Judicial Conduct. Robert Gottlieb, the fathers lawyer, and Gianelli said Ohlig made the right decision.
Wernick has now been indicted on new charges of doing the same to two teenage Suffolk boys. He used the Internet to solicit minors for sex, Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said. The victims in the two new charges are between 15 and 17 years old. The new judge, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Michael Mullen, arraigned Wernick in Riverhead and added $10,000 to the $500,000 bail on which he was being held. Wernick was hit with new federal charges that could bring him 50 years in prison.
Eastern District federal prosecutor Richard Donoghue said in court papers that prosecutors also have a statement from the father of a 5 year old that he also allowed Wernick to sodomize his daughter. U.S. Magistrate William Wall ordered Wernick held without bail as a danger to the community. He has been in county jails since his September 2001 arrest.
The federal prosecution of Wernick began on March 30, 2005, in a Central Islip courtroom with a list of names. Four-year-old Jennifer from Dix Hills. Seven-year-old Heather from Texas. Eight-year-old Helen from England. These are just a few of the sexually abused children whose images investigators found on Wernick's computers in September 2001. Prosecutors presented pornographic photos of children they say were found on the computer at his house. Several jurors turned away in disgust when the prosecutor showed them the photos and video clips. The images included notorious collections depicting prepubescent boys and girls being sodomized, known online as the Jess Series, the Crybaby series and the Heather series. During one video, the faint voice of a young girl is heard crying, No, no. It hurts. One woman cried through much of the display.
In a cracked voice and with obvious discomfort, a Huntington teenager told the jury how surprised he was to learn that the person he befriended in a youth chatroom four years ago was a middle-aged man. Once I met him I was so scared, the boy testified about his first meeting with Wernick, then 43. He kind of persuaded me into wanted to do things. Wernick is accused of sodomizing the boy, who was 15 then, in his family's home.