Lani Zaimi Ariano, the former Carmel-Mahopac restaurateur, who was sentenced to jail for 60 days in September 2016 by Putnam County Judge James Rooney, is still a free man. He was found guilty the year before of forcible touching a female waitress at his place of business in January 2014.
Following the sentencing, Ariano posted $200,000 bail and was released from the Putnam Correctional Facility, after an appellate court judge granted his lawyer’s request to place the sentence on hold while an appeal of the conviction was adjudicated.
Ariano was found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, forcible touching, but was exonerated on charges of sexual abuse after a jury deliberated for only three hours in Putnam County Court.
In that this was Zaimi’s second conviction for a sexual offense, he was subject to deportation.
Ariano’s attorney William Aronwald said he was “heartened by the not guilty verdict which was appropriate given the lack of evidence but was disappointed in the verdict of the first count since the evidence did not support the conviction.”
Last week, Putnam Chief Assistant District Attorney Chana Krauss explained the protracted legal maneuvers taken by Ariano and his law team to keep him out of jail: “Mr. Ariano was convicted, but his attorney filed a 440 motion to set aside the verdict. The prosecution responded and won the 440 motion, with the judge failing to set aside the verdict. Defense counsel filed an appeal with the Appellate Division to stay execution of the sentence. The stay was granted pending the appeal which was to have been filed. It never was. Our office moved to get the sentence executed and the defense moved for an extension of the time, which was granted.”
Krauss said Ariano registered as a sex offender: “Despite that, he has never served a day in jail because of the appeals. All I can say is ‘unbelievable.’”
The guilty verdict of forcible touching was Ariano’s second conviction for a sexual offense against a waitress. The first came in 2010. Ariano pleaded guilty in Carmel Court to the misdemeanor and was ordered to seek professional treatment.
In July 2013, Ariano was accused of sexually assaulting a young woman at his restaurant. The Mahopac man was charged with rape and criminal sexual act – both felonies, as well as unlawfully dealing with a child. Judge Rooney presided over the trial that ended in a mistrial in March 2014, after a Putnam County jury hopelessly deliberated the fate of the businessman for six days that ended in a deadlock of eleven to convict, one to acquit.
While prosecutors contended that the victim said no, defense counsel charged that the teenager never said to stop.