Hubbard Probe Lacks Testimony of Accusers
Albany -- Mary Jo White Calls on Lawyer, Clients to Respond to Her Requests for Statements in Inquiry
By Michele Morgan
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
May 18, 2004
A probe into alleged misconduct by Bishop Howard Hubbard has yielded "substantial and significant information" from more than 200 supporters and critics of the church leader but nothing from the lawyer who sparked the inquiry, Mary Jo White said Monday.
The former federal prosecutor hired in February by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany to conduct the investigation said she hasn't spoken with attorney John Aretakis or his clients.
"Mr. Aretakis was the first person we contacted after our investigation was announced," White said. "To date, and despite repeated oral and written requests, he and his clients ... have chosen not to cooperate.
"We are issuing this statement as a public invitation," White said in a written statement Monday, noting that the probe will be completed "with or without" them. She has not set a deadline for release of her report.
White is investigating allegations that Hubbard was sexually involved in the 1970s with Thomas Zalay, a 25-year-old Albany man who killed himself in his parents' home in 1978, and a claim by 40-year-old Anthony Bonneau of Schenectady that the bishop paid him for sex in Washington Park when he was a teenage runaway.
The accusations surfaced at news conferences arranged by Aretakis, who has filed several lawsuits against the diocese on behalf of people who say they were abused by priests and who maintain the diocese did little when they later sought help.
Hubbard denies any breach of his priestly vow of celibacy, and no lawsuits related to the allegations raised by Aretakis have been filed.
As part of her probe, White is also looking into the circumstances surrounding the February suicide of 57-year-old Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center Hospital chaplain, the Rev. John Minkler. The Watervliet priest was publicly identified as the author of an anonymous 1995 letter to then-New York Archbishop John O'Connor accusing Hubbard of homosexuality, inappropriate theological behavior and other transgressions. Aretakis initially made the letter public.
Minkler died shortly after signing a document for the diocese that disavowed authorship of the letter.
On Monday, Aretakis called White "disingenuous" for issuing her statement without warning him in advance. "I do not appreciate being sandbagged," Aretakis said, claiming White's statement contradicted her vow not to discuss the case until the investigation is concluded.
He said he would meet with White on two conditions: She must give him the complete "commitment letter" she received from the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board that hired her, and she must conduct the meeting publicly.
"I want everybody to see her process," Aretakis said.
He said he is unwilling to open his files to a lawyer who, rather than being an objective observer, is required to serve the interests of her client and his adversary, the Albany Diocese.
"I haven't trusted her from the beginning," Aretakis said. "And my clients don't feel comfortable with her."
White said Aretakis is free to meet with her staff and to look over the terms of the contract, which she plans to make public at the investigation's end.
She said her staff has met all of the conditions Aretakis originally set for his cooperation "that were reasonable." Written questions were provided as an option, she said, but neither he nor his clients responded to them or to five letters she sent.
By refusing to participate in the investigation, Aretakis may have surrendered his ability to complain if White determines there isn't enough information to substantiate claims against Hubbard.
"What comes to mind is 'live by the sword, die by the sword,' " Albany Law School professor Laurie Shanks said of Monday's development. "Normally, a lawyer who chooses not to respond publicly has clients' interests at heart. But Mr. Aretakis started this by having a press conference. It's pretty weird."
"It certainly undercuts his position," she said. "You can't have it all ways."
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