Former Choirboy Sues Diocese in Sex Abuse

By Ralph R. Ortega
Daily News
July 17, 2001

A Queens man has filed a sex abuse suit against the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, 22 years after he says he was sexually molested by a priest while serving as an 8-year-old choirboy.

Daniel Dugo, 30, of Bayside, says he was recruited into the choir of his boyhood parish, St. Cecilia's Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by then-parish priest the Rev. Patrick Sexton.

Dugo charges that Sexton molested him at least seven times in the parish rectory, and once in a car.

The civil suit was filed Friday in Brooklyn Supreme Court and announced by Dugo in a Manhattan press conference. It also names St. Cecilia's and the Archdiocese of New York, which also employed Sexton as a music teacher for several years without knowing that he was a priest, according to officials.

"We didn't know he was a priest. He wasn't serving as a priest. He came to us as a music teacher," said archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling.

Dugo is acting as his own lawyer in the lawsuit. He conceded that he has been told by lawyers that his case is all but impossible to prosecute because, after 22 years, the statute of limitations on the charges has expired.

But Dugo, now a home improvement contractor, is undeterred. He said he rejected a settlement offer of $15,000 from the Diocese of Brooklyn to pay for past and future counseling expenses and depression medication Dugo said he needed to deal with memories of the molestation.

Dugo said he spurned the offer as "hush money" because it contained a confidentiality clause that would have kept him from speaking publicly about the allegations.

"Even though lawyers have already told me I probably won't win, I feel I want to do it anyway . . . to give me some type of closure," said Dugo, who said he would leave it to a jury to decide how much he should be awarded should he win in court.

Dugo said he considered all priests "perverts" for years, and never understood why, until repressed memories of the alleged molestation were rekindled in 1999. They resurfaced, he said, as he watched a TV show about a woman who had accused her father of sexual abuse.

Diocese of Brooklyn spokesman Frank DeRosa said Sexton, 51, who took a leave of absence from his duties as a priest in 1990, has denied the charges filed by Dugo. Zwilling said Sexton resigned from teaching at two Westchester schools in the archdiocese over a year ago.

Diocesan officials said Sexton reportedly lived in Bayside after he left St. Cecilia's. Sexton could not be reached for comment.


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