NY Child Victims Act Lawsuits in Broome County Accuse Former Priest, Boy Scout Leaders
By Anthony Borrelli
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin via USA Today
May 21, 2020
After New York state extended the window for legal action under the Child Victims Act by five months, four new lawsuits in Broome County accuse a priest and three Boy Scout leaders in separate cases of alleged decades-old sex abuse.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the deadline to file lawsuits until Jan. 14, 2021.
New York's law for the Child Victims Act created a limited time period where victims could file claims against their alleged, abusers and the institutions that harbored them, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place, or whether criminal charges were ever pursued.
On Monday, in the state Supreme Court in Broome County, a lawsuit by a now 57-year-old Endicott man accused a now-deceased priest, Father Thomas Keating, of sexually abusing him over the course of three years beginning in 1973.
The victim was 11 years old when the abuse began, according to the lawsuit, which was filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. It alleges the abuse happened while the victim attended St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton.
Among the other defendants are an employee at St. John, James Purtell, who is also accused of making sexual comments to the boy in 1973. That same year, Keating allegedly sexually abused the victim for the first time, and the lawsuit alleges both men used fear and intimidation to ensure the victim's silence.
The lawsuit, like many filed under the Child Victims Act, contains legal arguments that the agency knew or should've known the accused person posed a danger to commit sex offenses and no meaningful action was taken at the time.
"All defendants had a non-delegable duty to protect minors ... from unwanted sexual conduct, sexual abuse and the associated traumas resulting therefrom," the lawsuit says. "Here, defendants failed to take any reasonable steps to ensure the safety of children, and (the victim) in particular."
The lawsuit's claims include negligence, assault and battery.
Boy Scout leaders accused of abuse
Three separate lawsuits were filed Tuesday by former Boy Scouts who claimed they were sexually abused as far back as 1952 in Broome County
That lawsuit alleges abuse took place when the victim was 10, while a Boy Scout in Binghamton. He now resides in California.
In 1952, the lawsuit says, Boy Scout leader Anthony Zembeck allegedly used his position to groom and abuse the 10-year-old during camping trips.
Another lawsuit says the victim doesn't remember the name of the accused abuser, only that he'd been an Assistant Scoutmaster. The lawsuit says the victim, who now resides in Canandaigua, was sexually abused on Boy Scout camping trips when he was 14 years old in 1971.
The third lawsuit, which names former Boy Scout leader Thomas E. Hickey as a defendant, claims he abused a 15-year-old boy in 1973.
At the time, Hickey was a camp ranger at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, according to the lawsuit. The victim now resides in North Chili, New York.
The Boy Scouts of America have filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and in a statement said its intention continues to be using the Chapter 11 process to create a trust that will provide equitable compensation to survivors of sexual abuse.
"We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting," the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement.?"We believe victims, we support them, we pay for?counseling by a provider of their choice and?we encourage them to?come forward. It is?the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement."