April 3, 2019
By Jay Tokasz
Kevin J. Koscielniak drove 250 miles from his suburban Detroit home to report an alleged crime in Western New York from 40 years ago.
Koscielniak told police that the Rev. James Burson from the former Cardinal Dougherty High School in Buffalo molested him in 1979 on a weekend retreat in Amherst.
“I wanted a public record of it. I felt that was important to have. I know there’s a lot of people out there who think we’re just lying,” said Koscielniak, who drove back to Michigan that same day last June.
Koscielniak, 55, plans to sue the Buffalo Diocese in August, when New York State begins a one-year window suspending the statute of limitations in sex abuse lawsuits.
Some attorneys said they expected tens of thousands of lawsuits to be filed across the state within the window established by the Child Victims Act, against all varieties of institutions, not just Catholic dioceses.
“There’s a lot of Catholic Church. There’s a lot of state foster care cases. There’s a lot of schools,” said Samantha Breakstone, a former prosecutor who now handles child sex abuse and human trafficking cases at the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm in New York City. “I don’t think people realize how prevalent it is.”
“I think the numbers are going to be astounding,” she added.
Buffalo attorney Barry Covert said his law firm is now handling 45 to 50 cases that fall under the Child Victims Act. About 20 of those cases involve the Catholic church, said Covert.
“I would say on the first day of the window, and the first week or the second week, you’re just going to see a flood of cases,” he said. “I would not be surprised to see 400 or 500 cases being filed, just locally.”
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