One Man Files Two Sex Abuse Lawsuits against Diocese of Rochester
August 29, 2019
A man suing the Diocese of Rochester claims he was victimized twice: when he was sexually abused as a boy by a priest, then against as a teen by an employee of a church-run youth program.
"The acts we're hearing are simply horrific," said attorney Dan Ellis of Herman Law. "Our client has had to suffer with this for decades."
The startling allegations get at the heart of the alleged ongoing cover-up of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church.
One of the accused remains on the job and currently works in part with mentally-challenged adults. Dan Charcholla runs the recreation center at DePaul Mental Health Services.
In 1981, when he was 16, the alleged victim says he was tied up, beaten and raped with the baseball bat that was used as the weapon. The lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court says the victim, identified only as "J-O", "was kidnapped and held in Charcholla's home for a week. He says he was forced to have sex with other teens and suffered injuries so severe he "underwent emergency surgery."
He also attempted suicide.
In the decades since, Charcholla has never been criminally accused or charged.
"The one we're filing today is the first public case, but we have another victim," said Ellis. "We've spoken with another victim who's corroborated the story and with other witnesses, but I can't get into the details of our investigation."
No one answered the door at Charcholla's home. In an emailed statement, DePaul said: "We have very limited information on the allegations at the present time and it is DePaul's policy not to comment on pending litigation." DePaul is also named as a plaintiff in the suit.
In a second lawsuit, "J-O" says the abuse he suffered under the Rochester Diocese began nearly a decade earlier when he was orphaned and living at St. Joseph's Villa, which was also run by the Catholic Church at the time.
At eight years old, he was assigned to chapel duty. In his lawsuit, he said he was sexually abused in the chapel by Father Austin Hanna - who he called a "sexual predator." He says the abuse was discovered by a nun who beat him and then sent him back to Fr. Hanna for confession, where he was sexually abused again.
In total, "J-O" says he endured six years of abuse in his first 18 years of life.
"What you see so often is that people are re-victimized after one abuse happens. What this shows is just how rampant this was in the Catholic Church," said Ellis.
A third lawsuit alleges sexual abuse at the hands of Rev. Eugene Emo while serving as assistant pastor at St. Mary's Church in Dansville. Emo once pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and served time in jail and later prison. Over a period of time, Rev. Emo was moved from one church to another.
"Instead of holding the predators accountable, they would shuffle them from church to church," said Ellis.
The lawsuits are being filed under the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. The law allows victims to file lawsuits within a one-year window, regardless of when the alleged abuse took place.
Nearly 50 cases have been filed in Monroe County alone since the one-year time period began on August 14.
Many of the victims in Monroe County allege abuse by clergy with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, spanning nearly four decades from 1959 until 1996. The diocese serves 12 counties in the Rochester area, including Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, Steuben, Ontario, Seneca, Cayuga, Tompkins, Schuyler, Chemung, Tioga, and Yates counties.
"As we have indicated in recent statements, the Diocese is reserving comment on lawsuits out of respect for the legal process and the complainants," said Doug Mandelaro, Director of the Office of Stewardship & Communications for the Diocese of Rochester.