A court banned a man from riding the Long Island railroad for two years on Thursday as part of a plea deal for sexually assaulting a train conductor.
Michael Harewood pleaded guilty in Suffolk County Court to charges of sex abuse and agreed to the two-year ban as part of his sentence for the Aug. 20 attack, the MTA and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said.
Few details about the incident were disclosed by transit officials, but the MTA noted the victimized LIRR conductor was granted an order of protection against the defendant.
MTA officials said the first-ever transit ban was made possible by a New York state law passed in April 2020. The law allows judges to ban people from public transportation if convicted of crimes against transit workers or of sex offenses in transit.
LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi said in a statement Harewood won’t be able to hop on a train until late 2024.
“Long Island Rail Road customers and workers can ride easier today, knowing that a criminal with a history of preying on railroad workers is banned from the rails,” said Rinaldi, who is also the Metro North president.
MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said officials need to do everything they can to ensure riders and workers are safe.
“And by banning this criminal from the system, the Court has done just that,” Lieber said in a statement. “He’s a bad actor who was clearly using the railroad not for transportation but to commit crimes; that won’t happen for the next two years with this individual.”
While the state law has been on the books for two years, it was not implemented to the frustration of transit leaders.
Lieber, in an Oct. 26 letter to a dozen of district attorneys that cover areas served by the MTA, urged prosecutors to put the state law into action.
“The concerns that drove the adoption of the (law) are only more urgent today, given the numerous high-profile crimes recently occurring in the MTA system,” Lieber wrote.
The union that represents LIRR workers, SMART, called Thursday’s announced ban a “step in the right direction.”
“And we want to see more perpetrators that commit any type of crime or assault against our members and our customers banned from our system,” SMART general chairman Anthony Simon said in a statement. “I will, as the leader of our organization, continue to fight for even more severe penalties for those individuals who assault our LIRR employees.”