Legislation Targets Clergy Sex Abuse
State Senator's Bills Would Let Victims Sue Decades Later, Prohibit Secret Settlements
By Erik Kriss
The Post-Standard [Albany NY]
March 6, 2003
An Oswego woman who says two of her four sons were molested by a Catholic priest came to Albany on Wednesday to support legislation aimed at bringing justice to victims.
Marianne Barone Trent applauded as Sen. Thomas Duane introduced a package of bills that would allow victims of sexual abuse by clergy to sue decades later and would prohibit secret settlements.
"I'm here today because I want to offer support for victims," Trent said after a news conference at which several victims joined Duane, D-Manhattan. "I'm trying to bring attention to the issue and I've been helping victims hook up with counseling and support groups."
Trent has said the Rev. Daniel Casey molested her sons in the showers at the State University College at Oswego swimming pool in December 1987, when the boys were 11 and 10.
Trent and another Oswego couple, who alleged their son had been molested by Casey, sued the Syracuse Diocese and Casey in 1992. Six years later, the diocese paid Trent $150,000 to settle her suit.
She said Wednesday she had been offered more money, but on the condition she not speak about the incident. She refused.
Trent later joined with two other Oswego women, Sue Sweet and Sandy Smith, to investigate and expose other abuses, including alleged offenses by Monsignor Francis Furfaro.
She has said authorities didn't help.
Oswego County District Attorney Dennis Hawthorne has said his office interviewed several men who alleged Furfaro molested them as children but that he could not prosecute because the alleged deeds were not reported until the state's statute of limitations for sex crimes had passed.
Duane's bills would change that by allowing adults who believe they were victimized as children three years from the time the law takes effect to sue and by allowing adults to file criminal charges until they are 26 or within three years from when they "discover(s) or reasonably should have discovered" psychological injury or illness resulting from abuse as a child.
Duane's bills would also:
Require clergy to report accusations of child abuse to police, including any cases in the last half-century, even if the alleged perpetrator is dead.
Prohibit the use of charitable funds for settlements of lawsuits in which the victim must agree to keep the incident secret.
Sen. Stephen Saland plans to introduce a clergy reporting bill "very shortly," according to Mark Hansen, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick. Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, and Assemblyman John McEneny, D-Albany, tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a compromise bill on the subject last year.
McEneny, who is still working on the issue, acknowledged his measure does not address the statute of limitations. It also requires reporting for the last 20 years, and he said Duane's 50-year requirement is unnecessary since that would cover dead clergy who no longer pose a threat.
As a member of the Senate minority, Duane has virtually no chance of getting his bills passed. But minority lawmakers' ideas often resurface in bills proposed by the legislative majorities.
New York City lawyer John Aretakis, who said he represents a half-dozen Syracusans who say they were abused, spoke in support of Duane's bills at the news conference.
Among others, Aretakis represents twin brothers Mark and Paul Zimmerman, of Albany, who have claimed they were sexually abused by the Rev. Bernard Casper, a former Auburn priest, in the Albany area when they were adolescents.
Trent has joined the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The group's Upstate assistant coordinator, Frank Nebush Jr., also came to support Duane's bills.
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