CARMEL, N.Y. — The brother-in-law of a New York prosecutor could soon be defending the prosecutor's former live-in personal trainer, despite a vow from the Putnam County prosecutor to steer clear of the ongoing rape case.
In court this week, it was revealed that Daniel Mentzer is seeking to take over the defense of Alexandru Hossu. Hossu met Putnam County (N.Y.) District Attorney Adam Levy at a gym about 10 years ago and later trained Levy, his wife and son in a gym in their home, where he stayed for periods of time. Levy is the son of TV's Judge Judy Sheindlin. His stepsister, Nicole Sheindlin, is married to Mentzer and a partner in his Harrison, N.Y., law firm.
Hossu, 35, was indicted on charges that he twice raped the then-13-year-old daughter of his former girlfriend in 2010. During a Putnam County Court appearance Tuesday, his attorney Robert Altchiler withdrew from the case, citing an unspecified conflict. At the hearing, Hossu said he'd already met with Mentzer at the county jail.
It's unclear whether Levy, Judge Judy or another family associate tapped Mentzer as Altchiler's possible replacement. Neither Levy nor Mentzer could be reached immediately for comment.
Lynn Bartlett, the mother of Hossu's girlfriend, who described herself as "Alex's family," said in court Tuesday that she contacted Mentzer. Her daughter, Jennifer Bartlett, worked for and lived with the Levy family as their nanny.
"That's who we are planning to work with," Bartlett later told The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News. "Ultimately it would be up to Alex, but I have arranged for that to happen."
She would not discuss whether Levy or his family played a role. She described Mentzer as "just someone a friend of mine told me about."
"I can't answer any of those questions," Bartlett said when pressed further about Levy's possible connection. "It's really not my place to say a lot at this point."
Levy recused himself from the case, which is now being prosecuted by the Westchester County (N.Y.) District Attorney's Office. He has repeatedly vowed to remain at arm's length other than making himself and his family available to help in the criminal investigation.ny
Levy has come under fire from Putnam Sheriff Donald Smith, who has called for a federal investigation and accused Levy of using his office to mislead the public and influence the case. Levy has denied Smith's claims and filed a $5 million defamation suit against the sheriff in state Supreme Court in August.
On Tuesday, Altchiler told Judge Lester Adler that Mentzer has expressed an "interest and enthusiasm" in taking over Hossu's defense. The possible hitch is that Mentzer is trying a murder case in the Bronx and may be tied up for two months.
"Two months isn't happening," Adler said, adding that he will appoint someone else if the new lawyer can't attend the next hearing on Monday.
Hossu, a Romanian national who is in the country illegally, has been held on bail and a federal immigration detainer warrant since his March arrest.
Contributing: Terry Corcoran and Richard Liebson, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News