DA Won't Investigate Abuse Claims against Hubbard

By Shawn Charniga
The Record [Albany NY]
February 12, 2004

ALBANY - Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne will not pursue an investigation of non-criminal sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, as no solid evidence has been presented on which to base a prosecution, he announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the diocese announced its own pending investigation will be led by an independent investigator, who will be hired by a review board the diocese created in 1993 for the purpose of investigating allegations of sexual abuse against priests.

Clyne was asked by the diocese Feb. 4 to investigate allegations that an improper sexual relationship between Hubbard and a 24-year-old man had led to the man's April 19, 1978, suicide. The claim stemmed from an apparent suicide note found last year by the alleged victim's brother, who brought it to light with the aid of John Aretakis, an attorney who has pursued similar claims against Capital District priests.

According to police reports in Clyne's statement, Thomas Zalay had been released from Spring Lake Ranch, a Vermont mental hospital, five days before he committed suicide by setting himself on fire.

It is said he had made previous attempts at suicide, including a leap from a fourth-floor Capital District Psychiatric Center window in which broke both of his legs, and had been prescribed medication to curb his split personality, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Zalay phoned the hospital in an unsuccessful bid to return hours before his death.

In his statement Wednesday, Clyne said the apparent suicide note, which Zalay's brother, Andrew, discovered in 2003, was the only alleged evidence linking Hubbard to the victim. It was offered as evidence by Aretakis without claim the note constituted grounds a crime had been committed or a civil suit was in the works, Clyne said.

"Consequently, there is no basis for my office to attempt to authenticate the note in question," Clyne said.

"Althought I take issue with some of the factual recitations contained in DA Clyne's statement, I applaud the district attorney's decision and I hope that victims and witnesses continue to come forward so that the truth will be known," Aretakis replied in a prepared statement.

Two days after the note emerged, a second accuser stepped forward to claim Hubbard had been among his clients while the accuser worked as a teenage prostitute in Albany during the late 1970s. Clyne's statement did not address this charge.

The diocese's independent investigator, however, will address both charges. The investigator will be engaged and directed by the review board, which will make a public report at the close of the investigation, the diocese said. The cost, to be paid by the Diocesan Insurance Fund, is not yet known.

The review board is comprised of Hon. Jaclyn A. Brilling of the state Public Service Commission, Rev. Geoffrey Burke of Latham's Our Lady of Assumption Church, Rev. Michael A. Farano of Loudonville's St. Pius Church, Albany attorney Kevin P. Glasheen, registered nurse Margaret Griffin, social worker Kathryn Martin, retired psychiatric nurse Catherine Rooney and former Albany County Assistant DA Christopher P. Rutkin, who works as an attorney.

Bishop Hubbard said on Wednesday he will take a hands-off approach, with his only participation in the review board's investigation being the submission of his personnel records, among other documents.

"I will have nothing whatsoever to do with the review board investigation except to provide the review board and its investigator any information or record they request from me and, as I have repeatedly said, I am willing and eager to take a polygraph examination," Hubbard said in a statement.


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