Inquiry Clears Hubbard
The conclusions reached in the 200-page report by Mary Jo White, who once investigated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, capped an emotionally draining four months for Hubbard and the region's 400,000 Catholics.
"The facts did not support any allegations against Bishop Hubbard," White said during a news conference at Albany Law School. "But what should not be lost sight of here are the victims of clergy sex abuse. ... baseless letters should not cloud the real victims."
White and a team of investigators from her Manhattan law firm conducted more than 300 interviews and reviewed more than 20,000 documents. Among the items reviewed were Hubbard's personnel files, phone records, credit card statements and his personal computer. One of White's investigators said they even went so far as to look at the types of movies Hubbard rented from a Blockbuster video store.
In the end, the investigation failed to turn up any evidence that could prove Hubbard ever broke his priestly vow of celibacy.
"We believed a review of the documents and the bishop's records should have produced some evidence of sexual activity," White's investigator, Anthony Valenti, said. "A check to a lover. An unusual purchase. Telephone calls to sex lines.
"It should have produced something if a person has been sexually active over 30 years," he said. "We found nothing."
White was hired by the diocese's sexual misconduct review board to conduct an investigation that could ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Attorney John Aretakis, who represents the two men whose allegations triggered White's probe, continued to dismiss the validity of the investigation.
Aretakis refused to cooperate with the investigation and wouldn't allow his clients to be interviewed, claiming that White's allegiance was to the diocese.
"We believe it was never fair or independent, as I've said from day one," Aretakis said. "Bishop Howard Hubbard was her ultimate client, not the Sexual Misconduct Review Board."
White began her 90-minute news conference by deflecting Aretakis' claims that she worked for Hubbard, saying she had an ethical duty to report the truth.
"This isn't about John Aretakis," she said. "The thought was, let the chips fall where they may. And that is what we have done here."
Hubbard, who has been bishop for 27 years, did not attend the news conference. He watched it on television and received a copy of the report at 1 p.m., said diocesan spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb.
"He plans to meet with the news media sometime in the next few days," Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb said White's report indicates "to any clear-minded person that Bishop Hubbard has told the truth, that he has honored his priestly vow of celibacy and that the allegations against him were completely and utterly false."
The chain of events that launched the extraordinary investigation into the bishop's private life began on Feb. 4, when a California man, Andrew Zalay, held a news conference arranged by Aretakis to announce that his brother, Thomas, had a homosexual affair with Hubbard back in the 1970s.
Zalay produced what he said were his brother's suicide notes in 1978, one of which claimed a homosexual affair with a bishop named Howard. Thomas Zalay died after setting himself ablaze in his parents' Myrtle Avenue bedroom.
On Feb. 6, 40-year-old Anthony Bonneau of Schenectady said at another news conference arranged by Aretakis that Hubbard paid him for sex while he was a teenage runaway living in Washington Park in the 1970s.
Hubbard fought back, insisting at his own news conference that he had never broken his priestly vows. He also pledged to take a lie detector test, which White said Thursday he passed in April.
"The only thing harder to unscramble than an egg is a rumor," White said.
White said investigators "have doubts about the typed note" attributed to Thomas Zalay. That note did not adequately represent the state of mind of the diagnosed schizophrenic who suffered from a number of other mental disorders, she said.
White also said Thomas Zalay's relatives told her he said he was abused by a man in the 1960s. But at the time he allegedly wrote that he was in a sexual relationship with Hubbard in 1977 and 1978, Zalay was actually a resident at an in-patient mental facility in Collegeville, Vt., according to White.
Zalay was released from Spring Lake Ranch on April 13, 1978. He arrived at his parents' home on April 14 and killed himself on April 19, 1978, she said.
White was also retained to look at the circumstances surrounding the Feb. 15 suicide of the Rev. John Minkler of Watervliet after a 1995 letter he allegedly sent to then-New York Archbishop John O'Connor was made public and accused Hubbard of homosexual behavior and theological transgressions.
After a television news reporter made the note public, Minkler, a longtime critic of Hubbard's leadership, denied being its author. Two days before he committed suicide, he met with diocesan officials and signed a statement to that effect. Aretakis insisted that Minkler was pressured to sign that statement.
A polygraph administered to Hubbard and Kenneth Doyle, the diocese's chancellor for public communications, indicated they were truthful when they denied pressuring Minkler to sign the statement, White said.
"We found no credible evidence that Minkler was intentionally pressured to sign," White said. "In fact, I think the repudiation was false, without a doubt."
White said she didn't know why Minkler killed himself. Interviews showed he was very upset at having been "outed" as the author, "but we can't know everything that happened on Feb. 13 and 14."
Access to the priest's telephone records and suicide note might have helped, she said. But family members refused. Some close friends said the letter contained Minkler's instructions on tending to his personal affairs, as well as some criticisms of the bishop, she said.
Allegations that Hubbard led a double life, frequented gay bars and paid Bonneau, an admitted male prostitute, for sex three decades ago in Washington Park were also unfounded, she said.
Sixteen current and retired Albany police officers, including former Commissioner John C. Nielsen and former Chief Robert Wolfgang said they had no knowledge of Hubbard ever frequenting, or being stopped, in the park.
Another priest in the city at that time who "somewhat resembled" Hubbard and was apparently known as "The Bishop" at gay bars, admitted engaging in sex at the park but denied being "The Bishop," she said.
That priest failed a lie detector test on June 14, White said.
Mark Furnish is chapter leader of the Capital Region Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He said his heart goes out to the Zalay and Bonneau families.
"But people need to be clear about what today was," Furnish said. "It cleared Bishop Howard Hubbard of sex with gay men and going to gay bars. But the whole diocese is still guilty of covering up sex abuse. I always said that was Bishop Hubbard's biggest crime."
White charges $770 an hour for her services, which doesn't include her team of investigators. The cost of the probe will be paid through the diocese's self-insurance fund.
White joked that one of her investigations cost $9 million. But she said this report would not cost that much.
"At this point we don't know the total amount yet," she said. "But it's going to be very expensive. We will be sending a bill to the diocese."
At an editorial board meeting with the Times Union later in the day, White, who once prosecuted mobster John Gotti, admitted that delving into a bishop's private life is "not my topic of choice to investigate."
But she said the allegations had divided the Catholic community and needed to be resolved.
"If we could bring some answers to the field, it would be a good thing," she said. "It was important to do. And I'd do it again."
Interviews conducted by Mary Jo White in New York and other states included:
View the report compiled by independent investigator Mary Jo White and read the polygraph report on Bishop Hubbard.
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