A snowshoer from India charged with abusing a 12-year-old girl in Saranac Lake has rejected a plea bargain, choosing instead to put his fate in the hands of a grand jury.
In a case that has attracted international attention, Tanveer Hussain, 24, of Kashmir faces charges of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Hussain’s attorney, Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, said Hussain was offered a chance to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and return home, but his client refused. Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague confirmed the deal was offered.
St. Armand Town Justice Sheridan Swinyer had scheduled a preliminary hearing for Tuesday, but it was canceled after Sprague sought an adjournment and Barrett requested that the case be moved out of the local court.
“At this point it looks like it’s heading toward a grand jury,” Sprague said. The grand jury would decide whether there’s enough evidence to bring Hussain to trial.
Another option is a superior court information, a document issued when a defendant agrees to plead guilty, obviating the need for an indictment. But Barrett said that won’t happen.
“He’s not pleading at all,” the defense lawyer said.
Hussain is accused of kissing the girl and groping her “in an intimate area over her clothing” on March 1, according to a news release from the Saranac Lake Police Department.
Hussain and a friend, Abid Khan, had traveled from India to Saranac Lake to compete in the World Snowshoe Championships in late February. The arrest shocked the local community, which had gone to bat for the two men after they were initially denied travel visas. New York state’s two U.S. senators intervened to help the athletes obtain their visas.
Hussain’s arrest came amid a national debate over foreigners traveling to the United States and made headlines across the country and overseas–as well as heavy coverage in the Saranac Lake paper, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. “I just hope he is afforded every protection under the law as anyone else who is arrested in the United States,” Barrett said.
Hussain remains free on $5,000 bail and $10,000 bond.
“He’s shocked and saddened by the allegations,” Barrett said, “but he’s in good spirits and is looking forward to clearing his name.”