Window for Child Victims Act sex-abuse lawsuits opens Wednesday: What it means

By Maura Grunlund
Staten Island Advance
August 9, 2019

Attorneys are poised to file hundreds if not thousands of lawsuits beginning on Wednesday for adults on Staten Island and throughout New York who allege they were sexually abused as children.

A one-year window of opportunity exists for victims of any age who were abused at any time as minors to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers and institutions that purportedly turned a blind eye to those crimes.

The window is part of the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 14.

Attorneys have been advertising for clients and holding news conferences, demonstrations and other events to draw attention to alleged sex abuse that in may cases happened decades ago in New York City and State and throughout the country.

On Friday, attorney Irwin Zalkin held a news conference in Manhattan announcing that two alleged victims, Heather Steele and Michael Ewing, will file lawsuits in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The lawsuits will name as defendants eight members of the Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).

Now located in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., the JWs World Headquarters occupied a building with a large Watchtower sign in Brooklyn.

“Litigation by the Zalkin Law Firm has exposed a database maintained by the JW containing information about known child molesters within the organization that dates back decades,” according to a news release from the law firm. “The JWs have defied numerous court orders compelling them to produce this database in several of the lawsuits.”

Some of the attorneys have formed umbrella organizations uniting abuse victims and lawyers.

A highly-publicized lawsuit filed on Monday against the Boy Scouts of America in Philadelphia was sponsored by the Abused in Scouting (AIS) movement, founded by a group of lawyers.

“The anonymous plaintiff joins nearly 800 men across the U.S. who claim they were molested and abused by leaders within the Boy Scouts and had their abuse covered up by the organization,” according to information on the AIS website.

“These sexual abuse survivors came together to share their stories and seek justice for their abuse through a movement called ‘Abused in Scouting’ [AIS]. Created by a team of lawyers, Abused in Scouting encourages victims of Scouting abuse to come forward, share their testimonies, and hold the Boy Scouts accountable for their negligence in protecting children from sexual predators.”

According to the lawsuit, a former Scout referred to only by the initials S.D. was “sexually abused hundreds of times” by an assistant Scoutmaster in Pennsylvania in the 1970s.

Men with Staten Island ties are on an attorney’s list of alleged abusive Scout leaders.

Michelle Simpson Tuegel and Stephen Weiss of Seeger Weiss LLP, represent 170 alleged victims of clergy abuse in New York City and across the state.

Tuegel and alleged abuse-victim Anthony J. Raiola of Staten Island co-authored a commentary criticizing the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the sex-abuse crisis.

Raiola is a Staten Island resident in his 50s who grew up in Brooklyn and says he was a victim of clergy abuse. He worked for the Department of Education and as a social worker before he retired.

Tuegal also represents Rafael Mendoza, who claims he was abused by Monsignor John Paddack, former principal of Monsignor Farrell High School.

In media accounts and news releases, Mendoza detailed the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of Monsignor Paddack at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx during his freshman year in 1996-97.

In a move announced in Catholic New York, Monsignor Paddack wrote a letter on July 2 to parishioners of the Church of Notre Dame in Manhattan indicating that he was stepping down as their pastor and dean of the West Manhattan deanery.

According to Catholic New York, Monsignor Paddack also “will not publicly exercise any priestly ministry while allegations against him of inappropriate conduct with minors years ago are reviewed."

“He has denied the allegations, and promised to cooperate with the archdiocese in its investigation," according to the Catholic New York announcement. "Monsignor Paddack also said he consulted with Cardinal Dolan, and decided to step away ‘for the good of you parishioners, the parish, and the Church.’”

Monsignor Paddack served as principal of Monsignor Farrell from 2002 to 2010. Before that, he was academic dean and an educator at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School.

In April, the Archdiocese of New York unveiled a list of about 120 bishops, priests and deacons, including clergy who served on Staten Island, who were credibly accused of sex abuse.



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