Child Victims Act prompts local lawsuits

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With the passage of the Child Victims Act in New York State, a Binghamton attorney is planning to sue the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester over abuse that allegedly occurred in the 1970s.

Lawyer Ron Benjamin says he plans to reintroduce lawsuits against the diocese in connection to 12 separate victims of clergy sexual abuse in Tioga County.

Benjamin accuses the late Reverend Albert Cason, the former rector at Saint Patrick’s Church in Owego, of raping and sexually abusing altar boys at the church.

The Child Victims Act, which Governor Cuomo signed into law earlier this month, will create a one year, one-time-only period allowing child victims to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Benjamin says the trauma has had a lasting effect. “You don’t get over this abuse. It’s horrible. It stays with you, it gives you nightmares. One of my clients is in an institution, others have continually questioned their own masculinity. Others have yet to maintain a stable, normal healthy adult relationship, never married. They destroyed a lot of lives.”

Benjamin says church leaders assigned Cason to Saint Pat’s in Owego after it already knew that he had engaged in inappropriate criminal sexual behavior.

The attorney had tried to file suit on behalf of his clients back in 2002 but was stymied by the statute of limitations.

The Child Victims Act will allow lawsuits during a one year window from August 2019 to August 2020.

Benjamin encourages anyone who a victim of sexual crime as a child to consult with an attorney, regardless of who the perpetrator was.

A spokesman for the Diocese says it cannot comment on litigation matters.

He says the Diocese has retained a retired state Supreme Court Appellate Division Justice, to serve as an independent neutral to help victims reach settlements and that a number of settlements have been reached.  
 

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