Child Victims Act lawsuits accuse ex-Seton coach of sexually abusing students during 1960s

By Anthony Borrelli
BinghamtPress & Sun-Bulletin
September 23, 2020

[with video]

A now-deceased basketball coach accused of sexually abusing a student when he worked at the former Seton Catholic High School in Endicott during the 1970s faces similar allegations from his past employment at a Catholic school in Poughkeepsie.

Four lawsuits filed since December in the state Supreme Court of New York County accuse Vincent Dutkowski of sexually abusing students at Our Lady of Lourdes High School during the early to mid-1960s. 

Dutkowski, who was a registered sex offender living in Florida before he died in 2012 at 83, did not face criminal charges related to accusations in the New York lawsuits — they were filed under provisions of the state's Child Victims Act. He became a sex offender after being convicted in South Carolina in 2005 of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to records.

Although not a defendant in the Child Victims Act lawsuits — at least five have been filed naming him, including one from May in Broome County — Dutkowski's alleged conduct is a focus of each of the complaints.

The Child Victims Act allows people to bring lawsuits related to past alleged sexual abuse against people or institutions such as schools or other organizations, regardless of how long ago the incidents took place.

What the Poughkeepsie lawsuits claim

Four victims who attended Our Lady of Lourdes High School during the mid-to-late 1960s allege they were abused by Dutkowski while they participated in sports activities and physical education.

Dutkowski was hired at the school around 1965 as a physical education teacher and sports team coach, according to court records. One lawsuit claims he was hired at OLL, despite being charged with molesting two students while employed at a New Jersey school in 1962.

"All such injuries sustained ... due to Dutkowski’s outrageous conduct were a foreseeable result of the defendants’ negligence in hiring, retaining and failing to supervise Dutkowski," one of the New York County lawsuits said.

Patrick Dwyer, a lawyer from New Jersey who filed four lawsuits in New York County naming Dutkowski, said different people who allege decades-old abuse have various reasons for pursuing a lawsuit after so many years.

"One of my clients really wants a bald-faced apology," Dwyer said recently. "Others have spent real money on psychological counseling and it has affected their lives in different ways."

What the Broome County lawsuit says

A lawsuit filed May 28 in the state Supreme Court of Broome County claims Dutkowski sexually abused a teenage student at Seton Catholic High School in Endicott on approximately 25 occasions during the 1970s.

The lawsuit said the 14-year-old boy enrolled at the school in 1972, and when he was about 14 to 16, he helped out as a ballboy and assistant during basketball practices.

Dutkowski, then a coach at the school, allegedly abused the boy in an office and at Dutkowski's home, according to the lawsuit.

Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton and the former Seton Catholic High School in Endicott are defendants in the lawsuit, along with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. The former Seton Catholic and Catholic Central high schools merged in 1976.

What's known about past sex abuse accusations

Previous sexual abuse accusations involving Dutkowski, apart from the Child Victims Act lawsuits, are briefly described in court records obtained by the Press & Sun-Bulletin / pressconnects.

A report from the Mount Pleasant Police Department in South Carolina says Dutkowski was investigated in 2004 after law enforcement officials received information about an alleged sexual assault that took place in 1978 through 1980.

The victim, who was 34 when the report was made to police in 2004, made a statement accusing Dutkowski of sexually assaulting him during the 1978 school year. No further details were provided in available records, other than that the victim previously disclosed the alleged abuse to a therapist.

Dutkowski pleaded guilty in 2005 in a South Carolina court to a felony count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The sentence included five years of probation and sex offender registration.

What happens next with the lawsuits

On Sept. 2, lawyers representing Seton responded to the Broome County lawsuit with a sweeping denial of the accusations related to Dutkowski.

They argued that those institutions, the Catholic schools, could not be held vicariously liable for damages because the accusations arose from conduct outside the scope of Dutkowski's employment at the time.

Lawyers for the Archdiocese of New York, a defendant in the four complaints filed by Dwyer, have argued for dismissal of the lawsuits in two of those cases.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, which is a defendant in more than 100 Child Victims Act complaints throughout New York and includes Broome County, the Archdiocese of New York hasn't declared bankruptcy, which means those cases will work their way through traditional legal methods of reaching resolutions, such as settlements or trials.


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