Child Victims Act allows man to sue former priest who also allegedly abused sibling

By Cayla Harris
Albany Times Union
December 11, 2019

Updated photo of Rev. Jeremiah Nunan.

Road to Recovery president Robert Hoatson, at right, holds photos of alleged sexual abuse victims Martin Morales and his brother Ivan Morales Jr. during a news conference outside the Albany Diocesan headquarters in Albany Tuesday April 24, 2012.
Photo by John Carl D'Annibale

The family of alleged sexual abuse victims Martin Morales and his brother Ivan Morales Jr., from left, mother, Carole Morales, sister, Maria Morales and father, Ivan Morales Sr. during a news conference outside the Albany Diocesan headquarters in Albany Tuesday April 24, 2012.
Photo by John Carl D'Annibale

[with video]

For years, two siblings have claimed that they were sexually abused by a former Greene County priest — but New York's statute of limitations only allowed one of them to pursue legal action against their alleged abuser.

That changed Monday, when Ivan Morales Jr. sued 82-year-old Jeremiah Nunan under the state's recently enacted Child Victims Act.

The case, filed in the state Supreme Court in Albany, alleges that Nunan abused Morales from 1989 to 1995, when he was 9 to 15 years old and an altar boy at Sacred Heart Church in Cairo. Morales, now a 39-year-old state trooper, first brought forth the accusations in 2011 after his sister confessed the abuse to their parents. Morales was too old to file either civil or criminal charges.

At the time, New York's statute of limitations time-barred child sex abuse cases after the survivor reached age 23 — a window Morales had missed by several years. But in August, the Child Victims Act opened a one-year period for survivors of all ages to sue their alleged abusers. So far, more than 1,200 cases statewide have been filed under the law.

Morales' lawsuit does not include specific allegations: "As a victim of Father Nunan's sexual abuse, Plaintiff is unable at this time to fully describe all of the details of that abuse and the extent of the harm he suffered as a result," the complaint reads. Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who is serving as co-counsel on the case, declined to elaborate on the accusations but said his client "has empowered himself" by coming forward.

"Given that my client was sexually abused from approximately 9 years old to 15 years old ... over 100 times, it is difficult for victims of sexual abuse to believe that the supervisors of Father Nunan did not know that he was sexually abusing children in a wholesale fashion," he said.

Nunan could not be reached for comment but in 2012 denied the allegations through the then-spokesperson for the Albany Diocese.

The Morales family has been vocal about the alleged decades of abuse since 2011, when Morales' sister, Martin, was arrested for violently attacking an ex-girlfriend. After the arrest, her father took over her finances and noticed thousands of dollars in checks from Nunan, leading both Martin and Ivan Jr. to disclose the abuse.

Martin, a 30-year-old transgender woman, is currently serving time in a Vermont state prison for burglary, kidnapping and domestic assault with a weapon. She later said she attacked the ex-girlfriend just days after an alleged confrontation with Nunan. She claims the ex-priest's abuse began when she was 7 years old and lasted until she was 21.

Both siblings took their case to the media in 2012, shortly after a civil claim was filed on Martin's behalf against Nunan, the Albany Diocese and the Sacred Heart Church. The Greene County district attorney had also opened an investigation into the allegations that year but never filed charges against Nunan.

Nunan was placed on administrative leave for six years following the Morales siblings' accusations. He was permanently barred from the ministry in June 2018 after the Albany Diocese's review board found reasonable grounds that he had sexually assaulted a child in the early 1990s.

"As with all of these cases currently in litigation, we are not at liberty to comment further, other than to say that we find such allegations of child sexual abuse horrifying and heartbreaking," Albany Diocese spokeswoman Mary DeTurris Poust said.


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