Owego Church Hit with Third Sex-Abuse Suit
Ex-Altar Boy Seeks $50M

By Nancy Dooling
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY)
December 7, 2002

OWEGO -- A third former altar boy at an Owego church is seeking damages of $50 million from the church, the Rochester diocese and the Vatican for sexual abuse he claims he suffered years ago at the hands of a parish priest.

It is the third such claim filed in the past week and a half. The latest lawsuit was filed Friday morning in U.S. District Court, said the plaintiff's attorney, Ronald R. Benjamin. The suit names St. Patrick's Church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and the Holy See as defendants.

At least four other suits will be filed against the same defendants next week, Benjamin said. He said he has talked to 10 former altar boys at St. Patrick's who've called him from as far away as Colorado and who also may file suit.

Rochester diocese officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Two other former altar boys at St. Patrick's recently filed lawsuits against the church, the diocese and the Holy See -- one on Nov. 26 seeking $40 million, and the other on Tuesday asking for $8 million, bringing the total amount sought so far to $98 million.

The alleged victims say the Rev. Albert Cason, a co-pastor at the church in charge of altar boys, sexually abused them in the mid- and late 1970s. The abuse ranged from fondling the boys and allowing them to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana to forcibly raping and sodomizing them, the lawsuits state.

Cason worked at the church, which includes a parish elementary school, from 1973 to 1985.

Benjamin said the church, diocese and Holy See aided and abetted Cason's sexual misconduct and allowed him to evade prosecution. Church officials were grossly negligent in placing, supervising and retaining Cason, the suit claims. Cason's superiors also were aware that he engaged in criminal sexual behavior before he was assigned to St. Patrick's Church, the lawsuit claims.

Cason is not named as a defendant because the statute of limitations has long since run out for the alleged victims -- now in their mid- to late 30s -- to file a personal injury lawsuit against the priest, Benjamin said. It also is too late to file criminal charges against the priest, last known to be living in the Finger Lakes region.

The diocese removed Cason from his ministry for sexual misconduct in 1985. No criminal charges were filed, but an investigator for the Tioga County Sheriff's Department spoke to Cason and the priest admitted to the sexual misconduct, the latest lawsuit states. Cason was not allowed to return to the ministry, diocesan officials said last spring.

Cason's alleged victims have been damaged by the incidents in varying ways, Benjamin said. Alcoholism, drug abuse and an inability to sustain a relationship with women are among the effects of the abuse, Benjamin said.

The Press & Sun-Bulletin does not publish the names of sex-crime victims.


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