Posted on Saturday, December 21st, 2019 at 10:20 pm
Alleged Epstein victims and former youth athletes seek justice through CVA
Over a thousand child abuse victims have filed lawsuits under New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA) since the law changed the statute of limitations for making claims. Recent claimants have ranged from former youth athletes to victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein, while accused organizations have included a variety of public institutions.
CVA enables more victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring to pursue justice
The law has even been mentioned in a series of cases linked to the infamous financier Jeffrey Epstein and his sex trafficking schemes involving underage girls and rich, powerful men. Federal criminal charges against Epstein have ended since he died from an apparent suicide in jail, but civil claims might still be possible against his estate, which is reported to be at least $500 million.
Shortly after CVA’s one-year “look back” window opened, Jennifer Araoz filed a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, claiming that she was forced to give him erotic massages in his Upper East Side townhouse and he exposed himself and raped her when she was in high school. Araoz alleges that she didn’t report the abuse earlier because of intimidation by Epstein, and she was so ashamed about the attack that she eventually dropped out of school. Lawyers for other Epstein victims have said they plan to pursue lawsuits against his estate as well.
In another case, Virginia Giuffre has suggested that she might pursue a sexual abuse case against lan Dershowitz, Epstein’s personal attorney, under the new CVA statute of limitations. Giuffre has repeatedly alleged that Epstein lent her to Dershowitz for sex.
Giuffre is already suing Dershowitz for defamation after he repeatedly denied her claims and called her a liar. Dershowitz has countersued Giuffre for defamation, plus his lawyer has stated that Giuffre wouldn’t even qualify for a CVA claim. He claims that Giuffre’s previous statements that she was not a minor when Epstein began grooming her for sex trafficking show that she wasn’t a child at the time that she alleges Dershowitz abused her.
Allegations mount against former youth sports coaches
Multiple men have filed lawsuits against Tony Sagona, alleging he sexually abused them as children and drugged them with cocaine and alcohol while he was coaching Babe Ruth League baseball in the 1970s and 1980s in Staten Island. The victims say that Sagona designated several athletes as “special projects,” which they had thought was an honor and meant the coach saw them as skilled players. However, many of these “special projects” were also the children that Sagona allegedly assaulted.
Beyond coaching Little League teams, Sagona also coached at St. Patrick’s Elementary School and an American Legion-sponsored baseball team in Staten Island before he left for New Jersey in the 1980s. Until recently, he was still coaching the Jersey Shore Warriors – an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team in Morganville, New Jersey.
At least two former Warriors players have filed claims against Sagona. These victims allege that Sagona threatened that he would cut them from the team unless they performed sexually explicit acts, and one victim claims Sagona demoted him and reduced his playing time after he resisted the coach’s attempt to rape him. Sagona has been credited with jumpstarting the careers of multiple teenage basketball players who later played in the NBA, although none of those famous players have accused him of wrongdoing.
Similarly, at least eight cases have been filed against Edwin “Ted” Gaynor, a former youth sports coach at multiple schools in Westchester in the 1960s and 1970s. The most recent case alleges Gaynor abused a boy at the Church of Saint Bernard’s grammar school in White Plains. The victim reportedly didn’t say anything about the incident as a child because he was afraid his father would make him stop playing sports.
In other cases, Gaynor’s former students allege that he sexually abused them while they were involved in sports at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Scarsdale, and he even tried to stay connected with them later in life. Gaynor also worked at Holy Rosary in Hawthorne and a summer camp in Tarrytown, but no claims have been filed in relation to those sites so far.
Troubled youth victimized at home meant to protect them
An anonymous plaintiff had filed a lawsuit against Bob Ellis of The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, saying the accused sexually abused him and allowed older residents to abuse him during his stay at the home for troubled youth in the 1970s. The victim also alleges that Ellis threatened to cut him up and throw him in a landfill if he reported the attack. This is the first claim under CVA against the children’s home, which is famous for housing children of immigrants after they were separated from adults at the border in 2018.
Child sex abuse suits against Catholic churches and clergy might go all the way to the top
Estimated that at least 5,000 suits might be filed in New York, California, and New Jersey against the Catholic church alone, with compensation surpassing national averages for each victim. It’s yet to be seen if victims will compromise and go for collective settlements or take a chance and pursue individual trials, where payouts could be astronomical, but verdicts in victims’ favor might be less certain.
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo finally resigned in early December after months of pressure from the church. His resignation comes after a whistleblower alleged that Malone kept secret files about abusive priests and helped protect their jobs despite admitting that the priests were dangerous. Malone had published a list in March 2018 of 42 priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children, but outrage erupted against him after his assistant later revealed that Malone’s draft list originally had over 100 names and included priests who were still active.
The Diocese of Buffalo is currently using proceeds from the sale of Malone’s $1.5 million mansion to help pay victims. However, there’s concern the diocese might have to file bankruptcy under the weight of sexual abuse claims like the Diocese of Rochester did earlier this year.
If the diocese does declare bankruptcy, lawsuits and payments to victims will be suspended, and federal courts will decide payouts for each victim alongside the diocese’s other debts. According to a study by Penn State, victims receive an average of only $288,168 from organizations that have filed bankruptcy – much less than payouts from successful trials, which range into the millions.
Meanwhile, at least 30 people have filed suit against the Middletown-based Carmelite order. The lawsuits claim that Rev. George Boxelaar sexually abused them in the 1970s and 1980s while he was working in Orange County at Holy Cross Church in Wawayanda, Our Lady of the Scapular Church in Unionville, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown. Boxelaar died in 1990 in his native Holland. The Carmelite Fathers order is trying to fight the lawsuits, as they say Boxelaar acted on his own outside the scope of his employment, and the order did not know the abuse was happening.
Recent suits against the Catholic church have the potential to expand the reach of these laws much further. Lawsuits in Buffalo and Minnesota contend that the Vatican – a sovereign state that serves as the world headquarters of the church – might be liable for abuse by church officials since clergy fall under the Vatican’s authority.
Additionally, actions allegedly ordered by the Vatican might be used in future cases. For example, an ongoing case in New Jersey claims that the Vatican’s 1962 “Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation” instructed clergy to keep accusations under wraps and threatened that anyone who spoke out would be excommunicated. So far, it’s difficult to know how U.S. courts might proceed with these types of suits against the foreign body.
How to get justice for your case under the Child Victims Act
The Child Victims Act and similar laws passed recently in surrounding states are empowering survivors of sexual abuse to get justice for the devastating acts committed against them when they were children. Special clauses in these laws have opened up “look back” windows that give older victims a limited amount of time to file lawsuits for abuse committed long ago. However, the deadline to file these claims will not last forever.
If you or your loved one were the victim of sexual abuse, do not wait a moment longer to get justice. The trusted attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP are here to help you pursue maximum compensation for your injuries and help you get on the road to recovery. With over 100 years of combined experience, our knowledgeable attorneys have helped clients across New York get the justice they deserved after suffering from others’ inhumane and illegal actions, and we want to do the same for you.
Contact Hach & Rose, LLP today and see how our compassionate attorneys can help you. Call us today at 646-685-8045 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.