Man Claims Abuse by Priest Made Him Insane

By William Kates
Associated Press
November 18, 2003

Syracuse, NY - A 54-year-old man who has filed a $150 million lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest from 1963 to 1970 is seeking to have the statute of limitations waived in his case.

The alleged sexual abuse caused such severe emotional and psychological problems that it left John Zumpano incapable of pursuing legal recourse against the Rev. James Quinn, Zumpano's attorney, Frank Policelli, said Tuesday.

Zumpano "suffered from a mental condition that caused (him) to have an overall inability to function in society so as to not be able to pursue, protect or safeguard his legal rights," Policelli wrote in legal papers.

Oneida County Judge Norman Siegel will hear arguments Thursday in Utica on a motion by the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese to dismiss the lawsuit because the statute of limitations has expired.

"The last alleged incident occurred nearly 35 years ago. The time for bringing this has long since passed. The issue of his sanity is moot," said diocesan attorney Paul Hanrahan.

Zumpano, of New Hartford, filed his lawsuit in May, claiming that he was sexually abused by Quinn while a student at St. Agnes Church's grammar school and Notre Dame High School.

The lawsuit accused diocese officials of showing "willful indifference and a reckless or intentional disregard" to the abuse and said they took no steps to investigate or stop it.

Quinn served as director of vocation promotion for the diocese and was in charge of enlisting and counseling young men for the priesthood. Although Quinn denied the accusations, he has taken a voluntary leave from his recruiting job while the lawsuit is pending, although he is still permitted to celebrate Mass and perform other priestly duties.

Hanrahan said Zumpano's lawsuit should be dismissed because it was not filed with the three-year statute of limitations. Even if Zumpano was insane, the statute of limitations would have expired 10 years after the last alleged offense, he said.

Hanrahan said there have been at least a half dozen rulings in New York upholding the statute of limitations in similar sexual abuse cases.

However, Policelli said Zumpano's case is different because two medical experts who examined Zumpano have conclusively linked his ongoing mental health problems to the alleged abuse and to Zumpano's inability to protect his legal rights.

"In all my experience ... I have seldom, if ever, seen a patient as damaged by abuse as Mr. Zumpano," clinical psychologist Richard Hamill said in an affidavit after examining Zumpano. "His entire life has been consumed by psychological debilitations, outbursts of rage, and thoughts of suicide."

Psychiatrist Richard M. Zoppa said he has been treating Zumpano since June 2000 and that he found him incapable of accomplishing even the simplest of tasks, of making decisions for himself and interacting socially.

"The abuse ... has been a substantial factor in John's mental condition, which includes suicide attempts, frequent blackouts, terrifying nightmares and panic attacks," Zoppa said in an affidavit.

"He is, in short, an emotional cripple, barely able to function from day to day," Zoppa concluded.

According to Zumpano, the abuse started when he was 14 and occurred almost daily. Zumpano claimed Quinn would get him drunk and then abuse him. He said Quinn gave him money, jobs, a car and expensive trips to Hawaii and South America to silence him. When Zumpano tried to refuse Quinn's sexual advances, the clergyman roughed him up and forced him to continue, according to the lawsuit.

Policelli said Zumpano was "under the total domineering control of a powerful religious figure from the time he was a boy throughout his teenage and young adult years."

Policelli alleged that Quinn imposed his influence on every aspect of Zumpano's life, isolating him from his friends and family, causing him to be transferred to schools against his will, even buying and picking out the clothes he wore.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.