NY’s Child Victims Act at the midpoint: Syracuse Diocese sued nearly 40 times so far
By Julie Mcmahon
February 14, 2020
|Manlius native Kevin Braney, at center in the crowd, is pictured with New York state legislators including Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, former Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, and Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, who supported and passed the Child Victims Act in January. |
Today marks the halfway point for a “look-back” window in New York’s Child Victims Act, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse already has been sued nearly 40 times.
The Child Victims Act, passed by the state legislature in January 2019, gave child sex abuse victims previously barred by statutes of limitations more time to sue. It also created a one-year window for victims who had previously been barred from suing. The window opened Aug. 14 last year.
Former Boy Scouts, school districts and an elite youth volleyball coach have faced claims here in Onondaga County.
An analysis by Syracuse.com shows the vast majority of Child Victims Act cases filed locally were against the Syracuse Catholic Diocese. Syracuse.com found 45 cases filed under the Child Victims Act, mostly in Onondaga County.
Across the state, the Syracuse diocese was named in 38 cases.
The lawsuits revealed new accusations, including some against living priests — one of whom the diocese reinstated.
The lawsuits also appear to show a significant number of victims who were not previously recognized by the church. The diocese in May paid 79 sex abuse victims $11 million as part of its Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program.
Victims who accepted settlements with the diocese signed releases that prohibit them from filing lawsuits. Administrators at the time said just six victims rejected or failed to respond to the offers.
Here’s a look at the local Child Victims Act cases:
Eight priests account for 26, or two-thirds, of the cases against the church. All but one of those priests, Paul Angelicchio, has been publicly acknowledged by the diocese as having credible allegations of child sex abuse against them. They are: Daniel Casey (six claims); Thomas Neary (five claims); Felix Colosimo (three claims); Francis Furfaro (three claims); Edward Madore (three claims); Jerome Weber (two claims); Vincent Lane (two claims); and Angelicchio (two claims). All but Angelicchio and Lane are dead.
28 diocese employees were named in the lawsuits. Most were priests, but claims were also made against a group home worker and a janitor. Some priests worked within the Syracuse diocese but were technically employed by orders, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans or Vincentians.
Seven living priests were named.
Nine priests who were accused were not on the diocese’s December 2018 list of 57 priests with credible allegations of child sex abuse against them. The diocese so far has only commented on one of those cases, Angelicchio’s. The diocese released a statement this month announcing he had been returned to ministry after a victim declined to cooperate in an investigation.
47 years is the average age of the claims tracked by Syracuse.com. A large majority, 21 claims, stem from alleged abuse that began in the 1970s.
1953 is the year of the oldest claim; 1998 is the year of the most recent claim, involving a foster child who claimed a Catholic Charities employee sexually abused her while she lived at a group home run by the organization. The most recent claim against a priest is by a victim who claimed Francis Furfaro sexually abused him from 1991 to 1993.
11 is the average age of the victims when the alleged abuse began. One victim alleged he was abused beginning at four years old. Claims go all the way up to 17 years old.
18, or nearly half, of the victims filed using their real names. The others mostly used John or Jane Doe or their initials.
Most of the plaintiffs are represented by out-of-town attorneys, from New York City and Buffalo. New York attorney Jordan Merson is handling 10 cases, and Jeff Anderson & Associates, based in Minnesota, filed eight cases.
All of the cases but one remain open. The victim in that case voluntarily dismissed the claims without giving a reason.
The “look back” window remains open until August.