Injunction Issued against Albany Clergy Abuse Attorney

North Country Gazette
January 22, 2006

ALBANY---Albany attorney John Aretakis, at the center of clergy sexual abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Diocese, has been ordered to stay 300 feet away from the Holy Cross parish.

A temporary restraining order that had been in force against Aretakis was converted into a permanent injunction Friday by Albany Supreme Court Judge Thomas Spargo that restricts Aretakis and his followers from their weekly protests at Holy Cross Church and the Holy Cross School.

Spargo's injunction extends restrictions on Aretakis. He had originally been banned from within 100 feet of the church or school. He is now prohibited within 300 feet during Mass or at any time when school is in session and for the hour before and hour following Mass or school classes.

The Diocese had been granted a temporary restraining order against Aretakis in September, saying that he was harassing parishioners and neighbors of the church and school by his weekly protests at the church during Sunday Masses.

When a process server hired by the Diocese tried to serve the restraining order on Aretakis, the attorney allegedly stole the man's briefcase.

Diocese attorney Michael Costello hired Robert Wells, a process server, to serve the order on Aretakis. When attempting to do so, the attorney allegedly reached through the back window of Well's car and took his briefcase which Wells said contained confidential material from other attorneys. According to North Greenbush Police Chief Rocco Fragomeni, Aretakis held the briefcase for two days before returning it.

A church spokesman says that Aretakis has been involved in at least three confrontations with parishioners and neighbors at the church since June when he and a group known as Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP) led by Mark Lyman, another claimant against the church, began picketing Sunday Masses including leafleting cars of parishioner Aretakis has publicly accused the Rev. Daniel Maher, pastor of Holy Cross Church, of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor over 30 years ago.

Last week, Lyman asked the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court pro se to remove Spargo from the case, saying that Spargo was biased in favor of the Catholic Diocese and because he had conflicts of interest. Lyman said in court papers that he believed a "very serious miscarriage of justice has occurred and will continue to occur unless the court immediately reviews" the fact.

Lyman says that Spargo has continued to remain on two related cases, one involving Maher, although he says the state Office of Court Administration removed the matter from Spargo in November.

Spargo is under investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for six charges of alleged judicial misconduct. Albany attorney, Steve Coffey who represents Father Maher, is a member of the judicial commission. Maher has been exonerated by the Diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board which found following investigation that there is "no reasonable cause" to believe the allegations brought against Maher by Aretakis and his client, Thomas G. Clements of Albany. Lyman, also represented by Aretakis, has also filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Diocese alleging that he was sexually abused by a priest.

Aretakis has brought numerous other sex abuse claims against priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese.

In a written statement, the Diocese said that it sought the restraining order against Aretakis to "protect children, parents and parishioners from confrontations and intimidations. While we have the utmost respect for the First Amendment rights of the picketers, the children and parents and parishioners of Holy Cross have a fundamental right to go to church and school without fear of intimidation or confrontation", the Rev. Kenneth Doyle said, chancellor for public information of the Diocese.

Aretakis and associates had placed leaflets and flyers on cars parked at the church and school and in the neighborhood. They have also videotaped parents and students leaving the school since June.

"Judge Spargo's decision is another in a long line of court decisions that help the church protect predators", Aretakis said in response to the injunction. "I believe these protests will not stop and I will continue to zealously represent my clients".


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