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Western New York Abuse Survivors Thankful for Child Victims Act

HoganWillig Press Release
January 28, 2019

Survivors of abuse at the hands of Diocesan priests and employees are thankful that New York State’s Child Victims Act is expected to pass the State legislature and be signed by Governor Cuomo. It will give them a second chance for justice.

The bill will expand the statute of limitations for survivors to bring criminal charges from age 23 to age 28, and expand the civil statute of limitations from age 23 to age 55. There will also be a one year look-back window for survivors whose claims have expired under the current law.

For many of the survivors represented by HoganWillig, this is the culmination of lobbying legislators for four years. 

Attorney William A. Lorenz, Jr. has been directly involved in the fight to pass the Child Victims Act.  In 2015, he traveled to Albany to lobby for the bill with one of his clients.  Assemblywoman Margaret Markey invited Mr. Lorenz to work with several downstate attorneys on amending the Child Victims Act in the hopes of getting it passed.  While the bill did not pass in 2015, HoganWillig continued to lobby on behalf of their clients. 

The firm also asked for a Papal investigation of the Diocese of Buffalo, three years before the Diocese came under intense scrutiny in 2018.

“Our clients have been patiently hoping for the Child Victims Act to pass for several years, and I am overjoyed that they and countless other survivors of abuse will have the chance to seek justice in a court of law,” said Mr. Lorenz.

 

            Here is a brief summary of the survivors’ stories.

Vanessa DeRosa’s abuse began when she was a student at the St. Dominic Savio Middle School in Niagara Falls.  During the 2002-2003 school year, Vanessa was sexually harassed, abused, and exposed to pornography by her teacher, Christian Butler.  He admitted his guilt in a court of law.  When Vanessa first reported the abuse to the school’s principal, Patricia Muscatello, and Canonical Liaison, Father Stewart Lindsay, they defended Butler.

Antonio “Tino” Flores’ abuse began when he was 10-years old in 1973.  When one of his brothers got in trouble with the law, his mother sought help from the Catholic Church, which brought Father Linus Hennessy to the family.  He became a “father figure” to Tino.  However, Father Hennessy also started five years of sexual abuse – first once a week, then daily.  The abuse included oral sex, masturbation, and attempted intercourse. 

            Twin brothers Kevin Haslam and Patrick Haslam were abused by Rev. William F. White in the 1980s.  It lasted approximately 10 years at Annunciation Roman Catholic Church & School (now known as Our Lady of Hope), at the home of Father White’s parents, and a retreat in West Valley. 

            Michael Eames was abused by Rev. Donald W. Becker in 1975.  It took place in Java Center, New York.

 

            “Once the governor signs this bill, we will begin implementing the legal strategy we’ve created for each of our clients,” Mr. Lorenz concluded.

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