Adam Schwabrow appeared Thursday morning in Johnstown City Court, standing for the first time before the judge and prosecutor who will handle his case.
The Montgomery County emergency management director and nine-year Johnstown police veteran was charged with statutory rape last month for alleged sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl and is currently free on $5,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty previously at his arraignment, but local judges and prosecutors recused themselves and he had to appear again before their replacements, acting City Court Judge Lisa Lorman and Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Buckley.
Also Thursday, Johnstown police put Schwabrow on unpaid leave. Shortly after his arrest, Montgomery County officials placed Schwabrow on unpaid leave, transferring his duties and $25,000 annual salary to his assistant.
He had been on paid leave in Johnstown since his arrest. According to Lt. Dave Gilbo, it’s slightly more complicated to put an officer on unpaid leave.
“We just got the paperwork through today,” he said. “There was no particular reason for doing it at this time.”
The move costs Schwabrow a roughly $55,000 annual salary.
Little was discussed at the court hearing. According to Schwabrow’s attorney, Michael McDermott, the appearance was essentially a status conference.
It was a short meeting, ending with Schwabrow exiting from a side door and walking briskly and silently to his car past members of the media.
McDermott said it’s a difficult time for Schwabrow.
“He’s a police officer,” he said, “and this is a very embarrassing situation.”
Schwabrow’s father, Dwight, the former Montgomery County emergency management director, came up from his retirement home in Florida for the appearance and said he plans to stay around and support his son through the lengthy court process.
McDermott called the allegations against Schwabrow vague at best.
“They allege it happened over several months, two years ago,” he said. “There are no exact dates. It’s very vague.”
According to Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy, long gaps are fairly common in statutory rape cases.
“Oftentimes, the victim is a young girl, and the defendant is a powerful, domineering sort of man,” he said. “It takes some time for her to come forward. That’s what we’re alleging here.”
In such cases, victims have five years to come forward, he said. While Murphy is keeping an eye on the case, he said he handed it off to one of the most qualified of his 21 assistants.
Buckley is part of the special victims prosecution unit within his office, Murphy said, and specializes in sexual offenses.
“She’s a career prosecutor,” he said.
Schwabrow’s next court appearance was scheduled for Nov. 21 in Johnstown City Court, but the case is expected to eventually be moved down the street to Fulton County Court.