Priests, an elementary school band teacher and Boy Scout leaders with local ties were among those accused of child sex abuse in more than 400 civil lawsuits filed this week across the state.
The filings come after the state’s Child Victims Act took effect Wednesday, opening a one-year window for the filing of civil molestation cases once blocked by the statute of limitations.
Each of the eight chapters of the Roman Catholic Diocese across the state was named as defendants in the lawsuits that alleged abuse by priests, religious brothers and church employees.
"Cathartic is a really good term. It’s freeing," said Cynthia LaFave of Albany-area law firm LaFave, Wein & Frament. She added, "The secrecy has finally stopped. They are empowered by the fact that this law went through."
LaFave is among attorneys representing clients with lawsuits aimed at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse and assorted priests with Mohawk Valley ties.
Ahead of the lawsuits, Bishop Douglas Lucia of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse issued a letter Aug. 10 to parishioners.
"In the coming days and weeks, parishes and other diocesan institutions may be contacted concerning a civil lawsuit,” he wrote. “We will turn all such matters over to legal counsel to ensure that they are handled properly and fairly. I am committed to be as forthcoming as we are able in such matters while respecting the confidentiality that accompanies the due process of law."
Among the accused named in lawsuits lodged by LaFave’s firm are priests who worked at Mohawk Valley-area parishes at various times over the last few decades, according to information presented by the law firm.
Many of the lawsuits share the sentiment that the Syracuse diocese knew about the sexual abuse but did very little to rectify the situation.
• The Rev. Daniel W. Casey, who died in 2001, was stationed at St. John's Church in Utica from 1990 to 1991, according to the law firm. Court papers detail an allegation, from an earlier time, of "unpermitted sexual contact" stemming from 1977 to 1980 involving a child who was 7 years old when the abuse allegedly began.
• Former priest Felix R. Colosimo once served area churches including St. Peter’s in North Utica, St. Leo’s in Holland Patent, St. Anthony of Padua in East Utica and Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford. He was defrocked by the Diocese in 2014 after a collection of accusations of child sexual abuse allegations were found to be credible. Colosimo died in 2017.
According to the latest lawsuit, Colosimo is accused of engaging in “unpermitted sexual contact” with the plaintiff, who was reportedly 17 at the time.
• The Rev. Bernard A. Garstka and another priest were accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old over a five-year period spanning from the late 1970s to the early 1980s while the two served at the St. Stephen parish in Syracuse.
Garstka, who died in 1982, was once a priest at Holy Trinity in Utica and St. Patrick's Church in Taberg.
• The Rev. Thomas Neary, who served at St. John the Evangelist Church in New Hartford, was accused of sexual abuse by New Hartford resident Stephen Moran, according to court papers. Attorneys said Neary was a priest at St. John the Evangelist Church from 1955 to 1962; he was later stationed at St. Francis Church in Durhamville from 1973 to 1980. He died in 2001.
The filing states that Neary “was known among the community and the children as a sexual predator."
• The Rev. Paul Angelicchio, who served at St. John the Baptist Church and Transfiguration Church in Rome, was accused of sexual abuse by a Colorado resident.
Allegations against Angelicchio were investigated by the diocese and the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office in 2016, found to be "not credible," according to O-D archives.
• In the same lawsuit, the plaintiff also seeks a judgment from the estate of the Rev. James Quinn, a priest who served multiple parishes in Utica, Rome and the surrounding areas. Quinn died in 2013.
• The Rev. Edward “Ted” Madore, who once served at St. John the Baptist in Rome, is named in a lawsuit regarding sexual abuse allegations that reportedly occurred at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Binghamton. The lawsuit is demanding a jury trial.
"Madore's abuse of Plaintiff began shortly after he became an altar boy, was frequent and persistent, and carried out for more than two years in multiple locations, including but not limited to the area behind the church's sacristy where plaintiff and other altar boys prepared to assist at Masses and other rituals at which Madore officiated," the suit reads.
Of those named in the recent lawsuits, four were identified by the Syracuse diocese as clergy with credible allegations of child sexual abuse: Casey, Colosimo, Madore and Quinn.
Beyond the accusations made against the local area priests, lawsuits were filed against other individuals with local ties.
• Four men identified as assistant scoutmasters with the Utica-based Leatherstocking Council of the Boy Scouts of America were named in a lawsuit filed by three plaintiffs.
One plaintiff is accusing Robert Tobin of child sexual abuse in the mid-1970s when the individual was approximately 15 to 16 years old. Another is accusing Richard Lewin of abuse that allegedly occurred between 1977 and 1978 when the plaintiff was around 12 to 13 years old.
A third is accusing two individuals — John Stella and Michael McEaney — of abusing him when he was 13 to 15 years old starting in the late 1970s.
The lawsuit names the Boy Scouts of America and the Leatherstocking Council.
• A woman is accusing Michael Carletta, the plaintiff’s band teacher at Stokes Elementary School in Rome, of sexually abusing her over a one-year period starting in 1989 when she was 11 years old, according to court papers.
In addition to Carletta, the lawsuit also names Stokes Elementary School and the Rome City School District.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Jolene Cleaver at 315-792-4956 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Cleaver).