Jury Selection Begins in Diocese Sex Abuse Trial

By Judy Rattner
December 14, 2006

Jury selection began Monday Dec. 4 in a $150 million civil lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. Two people are suing, claiming they were molested by a youth minister at St. Raphael Roman Catholic Church in East Meadow for three years.

The youth minister, Matthew Maiello, then of Lynbrook, pleaded guilty in 2003 to rape and sodomy of the two plaintiffs, a man and a woman who were 15 at the time of the abuse in 1999, and two others. He served just over two years in prison for his crimes. He now lives upstate in Gilboa, New York. At the time Maiello was sentenced, his victims said they believed his sentence was too lenient. Prosecutors said at the time that Maiello was punished as severely as possible.

The civil trial, before State Supreme Court Justice R. Bruce Cozzens Jr., in Mineola, is set to call Bishop William Murphy to testify. Murphy was appointed after the abuse by Maiello, but Michael G. Dowd, of Manhattan, attorney for the victims, says he should be held accountable now as the leader of the church.

In addition to calling both plaintiffs, Dowd said he will present videos that Maiello took of the youths having sex with him and with each other.

Diocese spokesman Sean Dolan said that he could not give a comment on a pending lawsuit.

Observers of the clergy sex abuse scandal say the Maiello civil suit is significant because it is one of the few church sex abuse lawsuits that is within the statute of limitations. Other recent cases against the Brooklyn and Syracuse Roman Catholic dioceses were dropped after the states highest court refused to allow them to proceed.

Carol Bongiorno, from the Voice of the Faithful, an advocate group for victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, said in a written statement, In the four years of its existence, members of the Voice of the Faithful have learned much about the lack of accountability from church authorities toward sexual abuse victims and their families.

VOTF is working diligently to support the efforts of State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and other New York State legislators to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits like these. We are also asking the lawmakers to vote for the opening of a one year ŚWindow of Opportunity for adult victims who were abused as children, but for whom the current statute of limitations has expired. It is felt that in adulthood these victims have a better understanding of what effect sexual abuse had on their lives. Changes in these laws will help all victims of sexual abuse, not just those in the Catholic Church, to seek justice.


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