My latest ramblings.
Enjoy! I definitely got important things to say
My latest ramblings.
Enjoy! I definitely got important things to say
• Relative to SB-1292: An Act Amending Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations
February 26, 2010|By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER, The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD — State lawmakers have introduced legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on civil cases stemming from child sexual abuse, exploitation or assault.
State Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, and state Rep. Beth Bye, D- West Hartford, detailed their support for the proposal at a press conference Friday morning, joined by state Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz. Also in attendance was Timothy O’Keefe, a Hartford attorney whose firm represents more than 60 victims in a decades-old sexual abuse case involving the late Dr. George Reardon.
“Children don’t always recognize that what’s happening to them is abuse,” Handley said. “At times, it takes a very long time to acknowledge that.”
Handley and Bye spoke of hearing from victims who had been significantly harmed by the abuse and wanted to have their day in court, but could not because they were too old to do so under the statute of limitations. Bye called the statute of limitations an arbitrary line that creates injustices for victims.
The state’s existing statute of limitations requires that a victim of child sexual abuse file a civil suit by age 48 — 30 years after turning 18.
That has been a barrier for many people who say they were abused by Reardon, an endocrinologist who is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of children over several decades, beginning in the 1950s. He died in 1998, but in 2007, a homeowner renovating Reardon’s former West Hartford home found a hidden cache of more than 50,000 slides and 100 movie reels of child pornography.
Since then, about 140 people have filed lawsuits against St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where Reardon worked, arguing that the hospital was negligent in failing to stop the abuse. The hospital has said it did not know of the specific allegations until 1993, when state health officials moved to revoke Reardon’s license.
More than 50 of the plaintiffs in the Reardon case were older than 48 when they filed their claims. Others have not filed lawsuits because they are older than 48.
Last year, state lawmakers considered a proposal, inspired by the Reardon case, that would have extended the statute of limitations for civil suits in cases where evidence is discovered that could not have reasonably been found before.
St. Francis opposed the proposal last year, arguing that old cases are difficult to defend and that the financial impact of the proposal “could seriously undermine our mission of providing quality care to those in need.”
Ultimately, the legislature’s judiciary committee did not vote on the proposal, effectively killing it.
Bye said Delaware, Alaska and Maine have all eliminated their statutes of limitations in child sexual abuse cases in recent years.
• Relative to Bill No. B034-31(COR): An Act to Amend Sec.11306 of Art. 3
In its two years, Child Victim’s Act brings 170 lawsuits alleging abuse, Beth Miller, The News Journal (Wilmington, DE)
In its two years, Child Victim’s Act brings 170 lawsuits alleging abuse
By Beth Miller
© 2009 The News Journal (Wilmington, Deleware)
Original article archived at DelawareOnline.com
Delaware opened its courthouse doors to victims of child sexual abuse two years ago — and they came by the dozens to seek justice for offenses committed as far back as 57 years ago, and as recent as three years ago.
By Thursday, more than 140 plaintiffs had filed more than 170 civil lawsuits under the 2007 Child Victim’s Act, which eliminated the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse and opened a two-year “window,” during which cases that would have been barred by a time limit could be filed.
The window closed Thursday, two years to the day Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed the law passed unanimously by the Legislature. The window was twice the length of a similar provision made in California courts.
The majority of cases named a Catholic priest as the perpetrator and his superiors — bishops and provincials — as accomplices who quietly moved the offender, often first to treatment facilities and then to other parishes.
The Delaware law was triggered by the scandal that emerged nationally in 2002 in the Catholic church, where the pattern of abuse and quiet transfer was exposed in a Boston Globe investigation, by the 2006 arrest of a retired Wilmington priest in Syracuse, and the subsequent response of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, which divulged the names of 20 diocesan priests against whom credible claims of child abuse had been made.
None of the religious orders ministering within the Diocese of Wilmington has released such a list. Instead, more than a dozen priests serving with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the Norbertine Fathers and the Capuchin friars have been named in suits.
But no person or group has the corner on this sort of crime. Cases emerged against teachers in Protestant churches, public and private schools, Boy Scout leaders, neighbors and family members, a judge and a physician.
Most cases have been filed anonymously, with notations that the plaintiffs fear public humiliation when their experiences are made known.
Six plaintiffs — including the nephew of a bishop — on Thursday joined Wilmington attorneys Tom Neuberger and Tom Crumplar to publicly thank Delaware lawmakers for giving them a day in court, a way to tell their stories and what officials knew. Neuberger’s firm filed about 75 percent of the cases.
Raymond Donahue, 54-year-old son of a Wilmington police captain, said he was 12 when the late Rev. Leonard Mackiewicz took him to his mother’s house in Sussex County in the fall of 1967, raped him repeatedly and then performed Mass in the garage. He referred to a letter produced by the Diocese of Wilmington when it turned over Mackiewicz’s personnel file. The letter was sent in May 1967 from the Rev. Edward Leinheiser, pastor of Holy Rosary parish in Claymont to then-Bishop Michael Hyle, begging the bishop to confront the priest, who was “openly defying me” by taking young boys to his rectory bedroom.
“Instead of firing Father Mackiewicz, the bishop transferred him to St. Thomas, where we met,” said Donahue, who reported the assault to church officials in the 1980’s and in 1994 told his story to an area newspaper. “Without our General Assembly, this secret document would have remained hidden forever. Because of our General Assembly, I have learned that I did not have to suffer and neither did so many other young boys and girls.”
Mackiewicz was named by 13 plaintiffs, including three women. Former priest Francis G. DeLuca, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in Syracuse, N.Y., two years ago, has been named by 21 victims. And the Rev. Dennis Killion of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales has been named in more than a dozen cases.
Many church records produced already have been sealed by the courts, attorneys said. And, experts say, many other victims probably could never muster the courage to sue — even anonymously.
“I think it is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dana Harrington Conner, associate professor at Widener School of Law, who specializes in domestic violence cases. “You’ve got to understand — whether it’s against a priest or even more, a family member — it’s very difficult to make that choice to pursue that action.”
Peterson proud of Del. law
Momentum for the Delaware law started after the scandal emerged nationally in 2002. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ordered new policies — including the end to confidentiality agreements, stronger regulations in youth ministry, criminal background checks, and immediate removal of the accused from ministry. It also surveyed dioceses to get an accounting for what had happened. In January 2004, the Diocese of Wilmington reported complaints from about 60 people against 19 priests, covering a span of about 50 years.
The Delaware law was sponsored by state Sen. Karen Peterson, D- Stanton, with a groundswell of support from citizens and advocacy groups, including the lay Catholic group Voice of the Faithful and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“It was a huge accomplishment in terms of getting justice for the victims,” Peterson said, “and we’re one of the few states able to accomplish that.”
At least 10 cases have been filed against public schools and the state, cases that will test the claim of state Rep. Greg Lavelle, R- Sharpley, that the law does not provide equal justice for victims of state employees. He plans to continue to introduce legislation to clarify that the law applies to the state, too.
The number of cases filed since the 2007 law surprised many, including Tony Flynn, attorney for the diocese, who has worked full-time on them. Based on attorneys’ estimates earlier this year, the diocese expected 75 to 80 cases. Scores were filed in the last month.
“The mountain to climb now is much bigger,” Flynn said.
The Rev. Kevin Nadolski, spokesman for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, agreed that the number of cases filed was disturbing. More than 30 have been filed against the Oblates, including two former principals of their flagship Salesianum School.
“The sheer number is gravely disappointing,” Nadolski said. “Whether the allegations are true or not, one thing that is clear is that people are suffering. We have a responsibility to respond to that suffering and pain.”
Nadolski said the order recognizes a need to build a culture of trust “that apparently wasn’t there.” And he said the priests feel “tremendously sad” that some of their brothers may have hurt children.
“It’s really impressive how powerful this act is at finally getting the truth out and helping some people who got really hurt as children,” said attorney Mike Reck, whose San Diego-based firm Manly & Stewart has worked with Wilmington attorney Bartholomew Dalton on about 50 cases.
Litigation has made it difficult for the diocese to deal with the victims “as victims,” though, Flynn said.
“The ability of the diocese to deal with them pastorally has ended,” he said. “We still are going to try to do it. A settlement is an acknowledgement of the abuse and an effort to help the victim heal by monetary compensation. But that is a one-shot deal.”
Though the bishop has welcomed victims to meet with him, that hasn’t happened much, Flynn said, and “that is a disappointment.”
Flynn believes a one-year window would have served everyone better. Now some cases are proceeding, with the first trial dates in October, and others have been put on hold, with the hope that mediation will prevent the time and expense of full-course trials.
Neuberger says Bishop W. Francis Malooly, installed in 2008, has taken a harder stance than recently retired Bishop Michael Saltarelli. But Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis-based attorney who has filed a couple thousand such cases nationally and more than a dozen here through Wilmington attorney Thomas Conaty, said Delaware bishops have treated plaintiffs here “with dignity. They’re not going to use all the legal and unnecessary hardball tactics that might be available to them. They will defend vigorously, but nothing untoward or inappropriate.”
In a recent article in the diocese’s weekly newspaper, The Dialog, Malooly said diocesan officials expect settlement costs to top $9 million.
Beyond the money, Anderson said the disclosures help to protect other children.
“The countless children whose lives have not been ruined by reason of this wise public policy is really incalculable,” he said. “You don’t know how many kids weren’t abused. But you do know how many have come forward and now feel like they have been given some hope legally.”
Peterson said she is proud of what Delaware lawmakers made possible.
“It’s worth it to the families that have been destroyed by the abuse, to the family whose son committed suicide, to those who spent a lifetime of bad marriages, unemployment, drug abuse, alcohol abuse — all those things that relate directly back to the sexual abuse they suffered as children. …
“The Child Victim’s Act was the best we could do to try to help people put their lives back together.”
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Sex Abuse Victim Sport Stars Honored at Baseball Game
Team Recognizes Their Work for Child Sex Abuse Awareness and Prevention
Former Philly Eagle and TNA Pro Wrestler Will Throw Out First Pitch
They Will Also Sign Autographs, Meet Fans
Use Delaware’s Civil Window to Protect Kids – Before It’s Too Late, They Ask Attendees,
At a Wilmington Blue Rocks Baseball game, two sport stars who are also victims of
childhood sexual abuse will throw out the first ceremonial pitch and sign autographs for
fans. Both men are being honored for their work for victims of child sex abuse and for
raising awareness for Delaware’s Child Victims’ Act.
Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium
801 Shipyard Drive (at Madison), Wilmington DE
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Ceremony begins at 6:30 pm
Game starts at 7:05
Al Chesley, former Philadelphia Eagles Football Star and
Pat Kenney, also known as Simon Diamond, former ECW TNA professional wrestler
Both men are victims of childhood sexual abuse and members of a support group called
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. SNAPnetwork.org
In July 2009, Delaware’s landmark child protection law, the Child Victims’ Act, will expire.
The law, which provides a two-year “civil window,” allows victims of child sexual abuse to
come forward and seek justice and accountability, no matter when they were abused.
Since the window opened in 2007, numerous predators across the country have been
exposed, removed from ministry or jobs with children, and communities have been warned
about the threat these men pose.
Al Chesley, former Philadelphia Eagle, and former TNA wrestler Pat Kenney (AKA Simon
Diamond) are being honored by the Wilmington Blue Rocks for their work in raising
awareness about child sexual abuse and the importance of coming forward and seeking
justice through laws like Delaware’s civil window. Both men are encouraging all victims of
child sex abuse in Delaware to protect kids and take advantage of the law before it
Chelsey, who was sexually abused by a Washington D.C. police officer, has traveled the
country speaking about his abuse, testifying in front of legislators, and working with the
media to encourage victims to report abuse.
Kenney, who recently filed a lawsuit under Delaware’s civil window, was sexually abused
at Wilmington’s Salesianum High School by Denis Killion, an priest who was only exposed
and removed from ministry in schools after 11 men came forward and filed lawsuits using
Delaware’s Child Victims’ Act. Killion’s order had known about credible allegations of
abuse against Killion for more than a decade, but did not take him out of schools until
victims had the right to use the civil court system to name their abuser.
Chesley and Kenney will throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game. They will also
sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Informational materials about the Child
Victims’ Act will also be available.
Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, California, SNAP SW Regional Director, (949) 322-7434
David Clohessy of St. Louis, MO, SNAP National Director, (314) 566-9790
Barb Dorris of St. Louis MO, SNAP Outreach Director, (314) 503-0003
Nothing in this act is intended to preclude the court from finding that the statute of limitations was tolled in a case because of the plaintiff’s mental state, duress by the defendant, or any other equitable grounds. Such a finding shall be made after a plenary hearing. At the plenary hearing the court shall hear all credible evidence and the Rules of Evidence shall not apply, except for Rule 403 or a valid claim of privilege. The court may order an independent psychiatric evaluation of *298 the plaintiff in order to assist in the determination as to whether the statute of limitations was tolled.
971 A.2d 1074