Staten Island Advance [Staten Island NY]
September 5, 2021
By Joseph Ostapiuk
Many prominent figures and institutions were named in Child Victims Act lawsuits on Staten Island the last two years.
A WINDOW CLOSED. AN ISLAND CHANGED. This story is the final piece in a four-part series examining the impact of the Child Victims Act.
Part 1:These 5 Staten Island institutions, figures may never be the same again | Part 2: What’s next for the Catholic church? Devoted parishioners, veteran priest share thoughts | Part 3: Child Victims Act fallout now shifts to courtrooms: ‘The system has never seen anything like this.’
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Lawsuits have been filed. Allegations have been levied. Millions of dollars hang in the balance.
The Child Victims Act, a historic look-back window that enabled survivors to file sex-abuse claims without a statute of limitations, sent a scathing fracture through the trust of beloved institutions and revered figures — irrevocably changing the landscape of the borough.
Notable cases brought to court shed a stark light on the immense scope of allegations made over the past two years. For survivors, some of who have waited decades to make claims of sexual abuse, the enormity of the act will have lasting importance.
Joseph Caramanno, a New Dorp High School teacher who was among more than a dozen people to file suits against Monsignor John Paddack, said the two years since the Child Victims Act moved into effect have been “very real.”
“I don’t regret it,” said Caramanno. “It just reminds me that this is, as it has been, an ongoing struggle over the years. It’s not going to be a quick remedy; it’s going to be continuing and, hopefully, the worst is behind.”
And there are signs the worst is behind for some survivors like Caramanno. After years of feeling out of place, he said he has “devoutly” returned to church on a weekly basis.
“I’ve got a little bit more comfortable and more at peace with things,” said Caramanno. “I don’t feel like an outsider, as much.”
Critics of the act argued that the law could spawn contrived claims, particularly in instances where alleged abusers were dead or unable to defend themselves. Former Staten Island Family Court Judge Daniel Leddy wrote in a column for the Advance/SILive.com the law would be “extremely prejudicial” to the institutions for whom those individuals worked or were affiliated.
From allegations against the Boy Scouts of America to beloved coaches on Staten Island, here are some of the most prominent lawsuits that were filed on the borough during the last two years:
The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto was the focus of a myriad of lawsuits on Staten Island. A former child care institution with more than a century of history, former residents alleged they received horrifying abuse at during their stays. The late Rev. Eugene Mangan, who served at Mount Loretto from 1959 to 1979, notably was accused by multiple plaintiffs of abuse.
The Boy Scouts of America, a revered organization, was the subject of numerous abuse allegations and filed for bankruptcy. The Staten Island Council of Boy Scouts and the Archdiocese of New York were accused in a bombshell suit of serving as “headhunters” to “recruit” boys for the Scouts where they were molested by Scoutmasters and other adults.
The Rev. Leo Mojecki, who served St. Sylvester’s R.C. Church in Concord during the 1960s and died in 1985, was accused of drugging and sexually abusing a boy between the ages of 9 and 11 in the establishment’s rectory. The abuse allegedly occurred in various locations on church property, including the rectory and a room where altar boys changed their clothes.
Brother Salvatore Anthony Ferro, who worked at Monsignor Farrell High School in Oakwood, is accused of abusing multiple Staten Island boys in a predatory pattern within the school’s health office. Two separate lawsuits alleged Brother Ferro touched the genitals of children when they went to the office because of ailments.
Former Monsignor Farrell Principal John Paddack served in various roles on Staten Island since the 1980s and now faces more than a dozen claims of abuse. In 2019, just months after the Child Victims Act was put into effect, he stepped down from his current post at a Manhattan parish while the allegations are investigated. Caramanno’s lawsuit alleges abuse stemming from Monsignor Paddack’s time at St. Joseph by-the-Sea.
Monsignor Thomas Gaffney, the former principal of St. Joseph’s by-the-Sea, was accused of sexually abusing a student in the Huguenot institution around 1980. Monsignor Gaffney died in 2004 and was not listed as a defendant in the case; instead, the suit alleged the Archdiocese and school were negligent in allowing him to be employed in a capacity where he had access to children.
Revered AAU basketball coach Tony Sagona was hit with multiple sex abuse allegations during the open window of the Child Victims Act. One lawsuit claims Sagona recruited a teenage boy to play on an AAU basketball team and sexually abused him, weekly, before paying the child “a couple hundred dollars in cash … during each encounter.”
Former priest Ralph LaBelle has been named as a defendant in multiple Staten Island lawsuits. In one case, he allegedly targeted and groomed the teenage victim around 1983 before sexually abusing him. LaBelle was included on a list of clergy credibly accused of abuse unveiled by the Archdiocese of New York. He was laicized in 2005, after several victims had come forward.
Rev. Thomas Burke, who was accused of sexual abuse that spanned during his leadership roles at St. Sylvester’s R.C. Church but not named as a defendant in the case, allegedly “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with a child in the late 1960s. The lawsuit alleges the Archdiocese of New York, the Augustinian Order and other entities that employed Father Burke were negligent.
Former Staten Island pastor, teacher and school administrator Rev. James Garisto was accused of sexually abusing a borough teen throughout the 1990s. Ryan Barry, who is now a father and husband, sued the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in the case. Father Garisto is named as an abuser in the filing. “He robbed me of pretty much my whole childhood and my teenage years,” Barry said of Father Garisto.
Defrocked Roman Catholic priest Daniel Calabrese allegedly sexually abused a teenage victim from approximately 1989 to 1990 at Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church in West Brighton. While not named a defendant in the case, Calabrese was defrocked after a previous sex-abuse conviction stemming from incidents in Poughkeepsie.
The Rev. Thomas Curley is named as an offender in a Child Victims Act lawsuit that claims he sexually and verbally abused an altar boy at Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church. The West Brighton institution and the Archdiocese of New York were listed as defendants in the case. Father Curley allegedly conducted some of the acts on or near the altar of the church.
Jonathan Del Turco, an assistant pastor at Christian Pentecostal Church, abused a 9-year-old victim in 1977 at the Concord institution, a lawsuit alleged. The abuse occurred in a “church-owned residence, car, and in various locations within and/or on the premises of the church,” court documents said. The church is the only named defendant in the case and was allegedly negligent “in not knowing that [an] abuser posed a threat of sexual abuse to children.”
Rev. Thomas Devery of Our Lady Star of the Sea R.C. Church in Huguenot stepped aside from his position earlier this year while officials investigate sex-abuse allegations that stem from lawsuit filings. One lawsuit was from his service at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton R.C. Church in Shrub Oak, Westchester County. While not named as a defendant in the suit, Father Devery allegedly abused an altar server at the institution. He maintained his innocence in a letter to parishioners.
Rev. Basil Akut, a priest at Our Lady Star of the Sea, was named as an abuser in a lawsuit in which he allegedly sexually assaulted a divorced women who was seeking counseling. Father Akut, the lawsuit alleges, used his position as a priest “to offer counseling services… in order to isolate, manipulate, and groom her for sexual abuse” in or around 2015.