A flurry of lawsuits alleging child sex abuse are filed as deadline for claims nears
By Chris Mckenna
July 27, 2020
In one lawsuit filed on Thursday, eight men alleged that a longtime Orange County priest sexually abused them when they were children, adding their claims to those of at least three other accusers of the late Rev. George Boxelaar who have sued.
In another case brought one day earlier, a former Middletown School District student alleges he was molested in second or third grade by Dr. Stefan Irving, a former school pediatrician now serving almost 22 years in prison for a 2003 conviction on charges he traveled abroad to have sex with minors.
Fourteen lawsuits in all were filed under the Child Victims Act in Orange and Ulster counties in the last two months as an 11:59 p.m. Aug. 13 deadline approaches for past abuse allegations to be brought in civil courts. State lawmakers passed a bill in May that could extend that deadline by a year, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't signed or vetoed it yet.
Other recent suits brought under the Child Victims Act include:
- In a case filed Tuesday in Ulster County, a former Ellenville School District student alleges his assistant football coach – who was also his Spanish teacher – sexually abused him at least 50 times from 1989 to 1994, starting when the plaintiff was in eighth grade.
- Two sisters from Orange County sued their former stepfather on Wednesday for sexually abusing them when they were younger than 13. The Rockland County man pleaded guilty to those crimes in 2012 and served three years in prison, according to the complaint and state records.
- An Ulster County man filed a lawsuit last month against Pine Bush School District and a former school psychologist who allegedly started having sex with him when he was in eighth grade and continued doing so as often as several times a week.
- A Pine Bush resident alleges in a case against the Boy Scouts' Hudson Valley Council that his scout leader sexually abused him when he was 8 to 10 years old in the late '90s. Pine Bush School District is also accused in that suit because Circleville Elementary School sponsored the scout troop, hosted meetings and organized trips and activities where the abuse allegedly occurred.
New York's 2019 Child Victims Act gave accusers one year to seek damages for sexual abuse they say they suffered as children that they otherwise could not have sought because of statutes of limitations on those claims. The law also extended the statutes of limitations for new acts of abuse.
Even before the coronavirus shut down court activity in March and ate into that time limit, state lawmakers had proposed extending the deadline by one year to match the two-year window New Jersey gave abuse accusers. Bill sponsors said more than 1,300 suits were filed on behalf of 1,700 accusers in just four months.
Both the Senate and Assembly approved the extension on May 27 with little opposition, despite resistance by Senate Republican leaders to the original law that had blocked the Child Victims Act in Albany for a decade.
Three men filed separate lawsuits last year saying Boxelaar sexually abused them at Holy Cross Church in Wawayanda in the 1970s and 1980s when they were altar boys. Attorneys alleged the priest had molested at least 30 boys at three Orange County churches where he worked before leaving the priesthood and returning to his native Holland in 1985. He died at age 81 in 1990.
The case filed Thursday on behalf of eight other men - four of whom still live in Orange County - claims Boxelaar told them that his abusive acts were normal and "in keeping with Dutch customs." The suit blames the priest's churches, his Carmelite order and the Archdiocese of New York for his access to children, saying they should have known by 1973 that "Father Boxelaar was a pedophile and sexual predator."
Irving, the former Middletown School District pediatrician now in federal prison, already had served two years in prison when he was arrested in 2003 and accused of traveling to Mexico and Honduras to have sex with boys as young as 6. His earlier conviction was for fondling an 8-year-old boy in a Middletown school.
The state court system assigned 45 judges to preside over the deluge of Child Victims Act cases that were filed when the one-year window for litigation opened last August. Lawsuits filed in Orange County are being heard by state Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger on Long Island. Ulster and Sullivan County cases are going before Justice Michael Mackey in Albany.