OGDENSBURG — A virtual press event on Tuesday provided an update on lawsuits involving Catholic dioceses and alleged clergy perpetrators filed under the New York Child Victims Act between August 2019 and December 2020.
“This is the now the 22nd Anderson report that has been released to help identify perils in the communities, to help survivors know where they are and who they are, to identify those institutions and Catholic bishops across this country who have been complicit in allowing children to have been abused, and to do what we can with each survivor, one at a time to make sure that we are doing something today to protect kids tomorrow,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, founder of the law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates.
During a nearly hour-long presentation, Mr. Anderson detailed the charges against the eight dioceses in New York and the alleged perpetrators in each diocese. He said the information was assembled by the firm’s analysts using data from the state.
“Under the Child Victims Act, survivors in New York have been given an opportunity to have a voice, to lay a claim as a Jane Doe or as a John Doe or using any other that they choose, and to sue the offender and those that have enabled the offenses to have occurred. Until the Child Victims Act was passed, they weren’t given a chance to have this voice, to take this action, to cause a measure of accountability and expose the offenders and those that allowed it to occur,” Mr. Anderson said.
He said the vast majority of the claims against individuals and identities have not been fully evaluated in civil or criminal court and all individuals should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
“These are simply the civil filings and the complaints themselves and the information contained in that public data,” he said.
There have been 2,801 civil complaints filed against Catholic dioceses that alleged childhood sexual abuse across the state. Mr. Anderson said his firm represents 1,007, or 36% of those cases.
“Of the total alleged perpetrators identified in the civil complaints involving the Catholic church in New York, there are 1,427 priests, brothers and lay teachers identified,” he said.
Of those, 959 civil complaints involve priests, he said.
In the Archdiocese of New York, there have been 400 alleged perpetrators, 231 of whom were priests. In the Diocese of Albany, there were 145 alleged perpetrators, 93 of whom were priests. There were 301 alleged perpetrators, 183 of whom were priests, in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The Diocese of Buffalo was recorded as having 244 alleged perpetrators, 205 of whom were priests.
In the Diocese of Syracuse, there have been 89 alleged perpetrators, 68 of whom were priests, while there have been 144 alleged perpetrators, 99 of whom were priests in the Diocese of Rockville Center, and 136 alleged perpetrators, 91 of whom were priests in the Diocese of Rochester.
The Diocese of Ogdensburg has an alleged 39 perpetrators, 38 of whom were priests, Mr. Anderson said.
There have been 710 lawsuits involving the Archdiocese of New York, 266 involving the Diocese of Albany, 571 involving the Diocese of Brooklyn, 498 involving the Diocese of Buffalo, 316 involving the Diocese of Rochester, 228 involving the Diocese of Rockville Centre, 157 involving the Diocese of Syracuse and 80 involving the Diocese of Ogdensburg, for a total of 2,801.
The top five alleged perpetrators statewide are Father Francis Vogt from the Diocese of Rochester with 52 lawsuits; Rudy Tremaroli, a coach at a school in the Archdiocese of Albany with 32 lawsuits; Edwin “Ted” Gaynor, a gym teacher/coach at a school in the Archdiocese of New York with 26 lawsuits; Father Robert O’Neill from the Diocese of Rochester with 26 lawsuits; and Father Donald W. Becker from the Diocese of Buffalo with 24 lawsuits.
“The positions of alleged perpetrators that are identified in the complaints as priests are 959 statewide,” Mr. Anderson said.
Of the 80 lawsuits against the Diocese of Ogdensburg, 79 are against the diocese, 67 are against parishes/churches, eight are against schools and 12 are against religious orders.
Thirty-nine individuals have been identified as accused perpetrators in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Of those, 38 were identified as clergy and one was identified as a layperson.
The top alleged perpetrators in the Diocese of Ogdensburg include Father John Fallon, with eight lawsuits, Father Liam O’Doherty with eight lawsuits, Father Emile Lalonde with six lawsuits, Father Edward Franklin with four lawsuits, and Father Albert Plante with four lawsuits.
Six lawsuits involving two alleged perpetrators have been filed against the Church of the Holy Angels in Altoona, and four lawsuits involving Father O’Doherty have been filed against St. Anne’s Church in St. Regis Falls.
In February, the Diocese of Ogdensburg was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court. The plaintiff, identified in court documents as LG 83 DOE, filed suit Feb. 17 in state Supreme Court in St. Lawrence County against the diocese and St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville, which is a hamlet that straddles the border of Clinton and Essex counties.
The plaintiff is a resident of New York state and was born in 1963.
In the suit, it’s alleged that Monsignor Thomas J. Robillard, who is now dead, committed acts of sexual assault, battery, rape and more against the plaintiff. The alleged acts happened between the years of 1970 and 1973 at the Keeseville church.
Monsignor Robillard, an Ogdensburg native, served at various other churches in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties throughout his career with the diocese. He retired in 1993 and resided in Norfolk until his death.
Monsignor Robillard died at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in March 2009. He was 91 years old.
Under the Child Victims Act, individuals have until Aug. 14 to file a claim except for the Diocese of Syracuse. Because that diocese has declared reorganization under Chapter 11, Mr. Anderson said there are only eight days left as of Tuesday to file a claim.
“There is limited time for every survivor to share his or her voice and for every survivor to know that they can share that secret and do so privately and bring a civil action as a John Doe or as a Jane Doe and preserve that privacy and have the opportunity to have their voice heard, to name an offender and hold those accountable,” he said. “We hear you, we believe you, it’s time.”