Rosato asks to face wife in courtroom

Judge to decide if the accuser of comic actor may testify via closed-circuit TV or behind screen

Aug 10, 2007 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter


KINGSTON–Embattled actor Tony Rosato says he wants to look his estranged wife in the eye when she testifies against him, although Leah Rosato would prefer to appear in court by video link or behind a screen.

"Everybody has a right to face their accuser, even in a murder trial," a shackled Rosato told reporters while police escorted him out of his criminal harassment trial in Superior Court in Kingston yesterday.

Rosato, 52, is charged with criminally harassing Leah Rosato, who fled their Toronto apartment in January 2005 with the couple's daughter, now almost 3.

The Crown alleges Rosato's "reckless" behaviour caused Leah to fear for her safety or that of anyone close to her.

Rosato's comments outside the courtroom followed an exhaustive debate before Justice Gordon Thomson about whether Leah Rosato should be able to testify by closed-circuit TV or behind a screen.

Rosato's lawyer Daniel Brodsky told the court it was unusual for an adult witness to testify behind a screen or by closed-circuit TV – an accommodation usually reserved for victims of sexual assault.

While the debate dragged on, the judge reminded the lawyers to stay focused because "every day is another day that Mr. Rosato is in custody." Thomson has said the trial should be "of short duration."

[The justice system has] left him a prisoner of his illness... June Conway Beeby , Schizophrenia Society of Ontario

The former Saturday Night Live actor has been diagnosed with Capgras syndrome, a disorder that causes the delusion a person has been replaced by an imposter.

Kingston police arrested Rosato in May 2005 after he repeatedly complained his wife and child were missing and had been replaced by substitutes.

Outside court, members of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario said the justice system has failed Rosato and his wife.

"It's left him a prisoner of his illness and it's left her a prisoner of his illness as well," said June Conway Beeby, a former executive director of the group, who said she was concerned about his extraordinarily long prison stay.

"It's unusual in the time he's been allowed to stay in jail and not get treatment," Beeby said. "We have a responsibility to help him. We're enabling the disease by not insisting he get help." The trial resumes Monday.