Hampshire Superior Court Judge Bertha Josephson has issued an arrest warrant for founder of the famed Riverside (NY) Church basketball program, who failed to appear last week for his arraignment in a Massachusetts court on sex abuse charges. The man’s lawyer, Frederick Cohn, said the two-count indictment handed down earlier in October is flawed and that he will fight extradition for Ernest Lorch because the two-page indictment is too vague – it says the assault took place between March 1977 and April 1978.
Lorch was scheduled to enter a plea on charges of indecent assault and battery and attempted rape in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. When he failed to appear in court, the arrest warrant issued, according to the NY Daily News.
Cohn told the News that the Northwestern District Attorney’s office is “linking itself” to a shakedown of his client, who is in his late 70s and in failing health. “I’ve got a guy who is old and sick and in a wheelchair, and they want to drag him up to Massachusetts to face a guy who has been trying to extort him for years,” Cohn said. “It’s all about money,” he added.
Lorch filed a lawsuit in state court in White Plains last year that accuses the alleged victim and other men of threatening to go public with sex abuse claims unless the basketball powerbroker paid them off.
Cohn said Lorch used a paddle to discipline the teenager during the Massachusetts trip, which resulted in the assault and battery allegation more than 30 years later.
“I don’t see it as sexual assault,” Cohn said. “I see it as bad judgment.”
Jane Mulqueen, the chief of the child abuse division of the Northwestern DA’s office, did not return Daily News calls for comment.
The maximum penalty for each count is five years.
Although the indictment marks the first time Lorch has faced criminal charges, several alleged victims have accused the attorney, who was a deacon at Riverside Church for many years, of sexual abuse.