Area Priest Faces Suit over Alleged Sexual Abuse

By Patricia Breakey
Daily Star
April 15, 2010

A Margaretville priest charged in July with 20 counts connected to the alleged sexual abuse of six males has been served with a civil suit filed by four of the alleged victims.

The Rev. James McDevitt, 63, pastor of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, turned himself in and pleaded not guilty during an appearance at Middletown Town Court on July 16. His next appearance in court is scheduled for May 13.

Attorney Michael Jacobs said he filed a civil suit on behalf of the victims in Delaware County Supreme Court. The suit seeks damages from both McDevitt and from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

The civil charges include battery, negligent retention, negligent supervision, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium and loss of services.

According to the charges outlined in the civil suit, in April 2009, McDevitt allegedly bought a new set of wheels for an 11-year-old boy's scooter. He then allegedly accused the child of drinking on the playground the previous summer and spanked the boy's bare buttocks while the child was lying across McDevitt's lap.

A 12-year-old boy alleged that McDevitt patted the child's bare buttocks on two occasions in the rectory.

Another 11-year-old alleges that McDevitt gave him a new bicycle and then accused the child of drinking and spanked his bare buttocks after telling the child to lie across his lap.

A 16-year-old alleged that McDevitt spent about $200 on gifts for the youth, and then accused the teen of misbehaving and allegedly threatened to tell his mother or spank him.

The criminal charges allege that McDevitt told each of the six males to take down their pants and underpants and then lie across his lap. He then spanked them three times on their bare buttocks, according to court documents.

The alleged victims ranged in age from 11 to 19 at the time of the incidents. The majority of the incidents allegedly occurred between October 2008 and mid-April 2009, but some of the events with two of the males began three years earlier, deputies said.

The misdemeanor charges include six counts of second-degree sexual abuse, seven counts of forcible touching, six counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of third-degree sexual abuse.

McDevitt, who originally appeared in court with attorney George LaMarche III of Troy, is now represented by Paul Gruner of Kingston. He is free on $1,000 bail.

Albany Diocese Director of Communications Kenneth Goldfarb said at the time of the criminal charges, McDevitt requested and received a voluntary leave.

A search warrant was executed June 8 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the church rectory, the parish center and a garage, Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said previously.

Vredenburgh said the warrant covered general items related to the alleged crime, including a computer that was missing from the priest's home.

Separately, McDevitt was arrested June 2 after a car accident and charged with driving while intoxicated. Before being assigned to the Margaretville church, McDevitt served the Delhi Catholic Church.


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