State Justice to Rule on Files in Case Involving Priest
Lawyer Seeks Information on Investigation
By Nancy Dooling
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY)
December 25, 2002
OWEGO — A state Supreme Court justice will decide whether files will be released from a police investigation into allegations that an Owego priest molested altar boys nearly 20 years ago.
Binghamton attorney Ronald R. Benjamin, who represents six alleged victims in lawsuits against St. Patrick's Church in Owego, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and the Holy See, appealed to the court Monday to open the files.
Benjamin said the files contain copies of two letters the Tioga County Sheriff's Department sent to both the Rochester Diocese and the Holy See about the police investigation of the Rev. Albert Cason, an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's in the 1970s and 1980s.
Benjamin is asking the justice to release the files or, barring that, to inspect the files in court and make an independent determination on what records are exempt.
The diocese removed Cason from the ministry in 1985 for sexual misconduct, but no criminal charges were filed. Sheriff's investigators conducted an investigation into abuse allegations against Cason in the early 1980s, but the families of the alleged victims declined to press charges, investigators have said.
The sheriff's department and the county Legislature turned down two Freedom of Information Law requests by Benjamin to view police files from the investigation.
County freedom of information officer Maureen Dougherty denied Benjamin's request, claiming it invaded the privacy of both Cason and the people who filed the complaints.
But Benjamin said both plaintiffs named in the police investigation have offered to waive their privacy rights.
County officials received Benjamin's court petition Friday, senior assistant Tioga County attorney Christian Root said. He declined to comment on any action the county will take.
"Any response will be filed with the court," he said.
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