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  Lawsuit Alleges Sex Abuse Took Place at North Berkshire Sites

By Ben Rubin
North Adams Transcript [North Adams MA]
December 1, 2004

NORTH ADAMS -- A former alter boy has filed in Boston a $3 million lawsuit alleging sexual molestation by a now-deceased Catholic priest. The suit includes Williamstown, Lenox and Great Barrington as sites where the alleged crimes occurred.

The molestation allegedly happened in the 1950s, and the alleged victim is now 62 years old. The accused priest, the late Monsignor William M. Slavin, has been dead for 21 years.

Edmund Zampier of Troy, N.Y., filed the lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, against Slavin, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., on Nov. 29. Zampier held a press conference Tuesday with his attorney, John Aretakis, at the lawyer's home in North Greenbush, N.Y.

The lawsuit also names Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, who was previously sued by Aretakis in other molestation cases, for allegedly failing to discipline Slavin or protect Zampier as a minor. Hubbard was not even a priest at the time of the alleged crime, said diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb.

Aretakis said Hubbard was named the suit because he is the head of the diocese and is therefore responsible for its conduct.

The suit is asking for no less than $3 million in recompense for alleged actions, including alleged assault, battery, emotional distress and negligence from the diocese.

Zampier alleges that he was molested by three priests over the course of his youth. All three priests are now dead. The first was of the same diocese and allegedly molested him from 1957-1958 when Zampier was 15 and 16 years old, the suit alleges.

Zampier claimed he was later exploited and molested by Slavin after meeting him about the McCarthy Scholarship Trust, a Catholic college scholarship program that Slavin managed. Zampier said he won the scholarship and was first molested at Slavin's residence when he went there to discuss the award. He accuses Slavin of carrying on a five-year exploitation of him from 1959-1964, in which the two went on many trips, including Montreal, Quebec, New York City and Williamstown.

Zampier alleged that he was molested in Slavin's car while going to a hotel that is now part of Williams College's campus, and while going to the Clark Art Institute back in the 1960s.

"I became very familiar with Williamstown," Zampier said. "Going back there today brings back memories of being hurt and being exploited."

Zampier said he was conflicted about coming forward previously, because he was taught to respect priests and felt financially under Slavin's control because of the scholarship. The molestation ended after he graduated from St. Michael's College in Vermont, Zampier said. Before then, he suffered a difficult life of poverty, family separation and mental breakdown, he said. He alleged that many of his current problems with trust, relationships and work come from this time in his life.

"I've suffered for a lifetime. Now it's time for justice and compensation," he said.

Zampier is a copy editor at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y. He has been in the field of journalism for 25 years.

The diocese has suspended an investigation into the allegations, because Zampier and his lawyer are unwilling to cooperate, said Goldfarb.

"We investigate every case that comes to us, and we take action when necessary," he said.

A diocese press release on Nov. 30, titled, "John Aretakis lawsuits are long on claims but short on facts," said Zampier is the only person who ever claimed charges against Slavin. As well, the late Monsignor James Hart, who was also accused of molestation, was never brought up by Zampier before the press conference, and was never accused of molestation before then by anyone, the release said.

"Msgrs. Slavin and Hart were respected and beloved priests in the Albany Diocese for decades," the release stated.

Zampier and the diocese verified that Zampier came to them three years ago with alleged abuse issues about Slavin and another former priest. The diocese counseled him, and Hubbard came to Zampier's home to conduct a "healing service" at Zampier's request, said Goldfarb.

Zampier alleges that $4,000, then $8,000, was offered to him as a settlement.

Past failed lawsuits

Aretakis said he holds a mountain of evidence on the case, including the credibility of the story from three years ago, psychiatrist records from seven years ago, and Zampier's aunt, Joan O'Connell, who can vouch for the story, because she allegedly heard of the molestation while it happened.

Goldfarb said all three lawsuits filed for various clients by Aretakis against the diocese in New York have all failed or been withdrawn.

This is the fifth lawsuit against the diocese Aretakis filed in Massachusetts. All still are pending in the courts, Aretakis said. He said he represents more than 100 clients in Albany in cases of priest abuse. He said the laws in this state are "friendlier to victims" and the statute of limitations on alleging crimes is not enforced as strictly here.

"In Massachusetts, if you were molested a year ago or 40 years ago, you can still file a lawsuit," Aretakis said.

The Albany Times-Union wrote on Nov. 22 that Aretakis has "waged a vitriolic two-year battle" with the diocese, and now faces criticism from the New York Committee on Professional Standards for it. About 15 complaints have been lobbed against him, and the committee is currently trying to have Aretakis disbarred.

Aretakis responded to the charges, saying in the Times-Union the committee is trying to silence the only voice "speaking out on, and successfully suing, the Catholic church."

"We're both doing it the help protect children. This is a community safety issue." Aretakis said. "Many of these predators are still in the priesthood." He said he is trying to unveil a potential "larger conspiracy" of covered up molestation and secret protection in the Albany diocese.

 
 

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