Former Staten Island hero cop William Fox looking at life behind bars in Pennsylvania sex charges case
Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 7:04 AM
By Frank Donnelly/Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Former Stapleton resident William Fox, a retired hero cop who became the legal guardian of a 17-year-old runaway he talked out of committing suicide, could spend the rest of his life behind bars after cutting a plea deal yesterday in Pennsylvania on sex charges involving boys.
Fox, 66, pleaded "no contest" to nine charges, including incest, corruption of minors, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault relating to three victims who lived with him, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.
One of the charges, obstructing the administration of justice, accused him of trying to influence a victim's grand jury testimony.
Fox entered his plea after one of the victims testified on the second day of his trial in Tioga County Court. A "no contest" plea is treated the same as a guilty plea even though the defendant doesn't admit guilt, prosecutors said.
FACES UP TO 69 YEARS
Fox faces up to 69 years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines, when sentenced in about three months, said prosecutors. He must first be evaluated to determine if he's a sexually violent predator.
A man who answered the phone last night at Fox's home said the defendant wasn't there and declined comment on the case.
Fox's lawyer, Stephen J. Banik, could not immediately be reached yesterday for comment.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Forray is prosecuting the case.
In March, police arrested Fox in his Liberty, Pa., home and accused him of sexually abusing three boys with whom he resided between 1996 and 2009. The victims, now adults, were teens at the time, said cops. Police records identify the suspect as William Patrick Fox Sr.
Liberty is situated near the New York state line in north-central Pennsylvania, about 230 miles northwest of Staten Island.
Authorities said Fox had adopted "more than" 10 children over the years in Pennsylvania, New York and Florida. The three alleged victims in the Pennsylvania case are the only ones police charged Fox with molesting.
He was not accused of abusing Michael Buchanan, the runaway teen he had talked down from the ledge of a Bowery flophouse in 1981.
Fox's arrest was the result of a two-year probe launched, in part, after a "concerned individual" from the Staten Island area "made an inquiry," according to Trooper Todd Wagaman of the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Mansfield. The trooper said one of the alleged Pennsylvania victims also had come forward at about the same time.
Former Todt Hill resident Dr. Frank Spinelli told the Advance he is the "concerned individual" who contacted authorities.
Dr. Spinelli said Fox molested him multiple times between 1978 and 1980 while Dr. Spinelli was a Boy Scout and Fox the leader of a troop based in the borough's Concord neighborhood.
Dr. Spinelli said he eventually reported the alleged incidents to his parents, who brought it to the attention of another Scout family, but, to his knowledge, Fox was never disciplined. Dr. Spinelli, who said he was 11 when the alleged abuse began, left the Scouts.
Reached by phone yesterday, Dr. Spinelli expressed mixed emotions about Fox's plea.
"There's part of me that feels vindicated; I thought no one believed me," said Dr. Spinelli, who according to his website is an internist and one-time clinical director of HIV Services at the former Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan. "But part of me feels so sad so many other boys had to suffer needlessly."
Advance records show that Fox's dramatic rescue of Buchanan three decades ago was the stuff of legend.
Buchanan, who was born and reared in the South, had been abandoned by his mother as a toddler and hadn't seen his father in years. In August 1981, he ran away to New York. He couldn't get a job and, despondent, climbed onto the eighth-floor ledge of the rooming house where he was staying on Sept. 1 and dangled his legs over the edge.
While heartless bystanders yelled at the boy to jump, Fox, during a tense 90-minute standoff, told the teen he cared for him and would be proud to be his father.
He eventually grabbed Buchanan and didn't let go.
Fox followed through on his promise, becoming the boy's legal guardian and setting up a trust fund for him.
The duo's heartwarming saga was recounted nationally in print and on TV, and in May of 1982, the National Father's Day Committee named Fox one of its 10 Fathers of the Year.
About a year later, Fox, hampered by injuries suffered when a drunken driver crashed into his patrol car, retired from the NYPD. At the same time, "The Cop and The Kid" was published, chronicling his relationship with Buchanan. Fox was listed as a co-author.