Awards from dio­cese were based on ‘na­ture, ex­tent and fre­quency’ of abuse

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

tors try­ing to gather as much in­for­ma­tion as they can.

Bos­ton lawyer Mitchell Garabe­dian said he was told the grand jury sought records re­lated to two of his clients.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors al­ready have in­ter­viewed sev­eral peo­ple who’ve ac­cused priests of abuse and po­ten­tial wit­nesses in build­ing a case. It’s not clear what they were hop­ing to find with the lat­est sub­poena or what im­pact it will have on their probe.

The down­town chancery of­fice of the Buf­falo Dio­cese was served with a fed­eral sub­poena for doc­u­ments last June, and then again in the fall.

“The dio­cese con­tin­ues to co­op­er­ate with the re­quests for doc­u­ments from the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors,” said Ter­rence M. Con­nors, a lawyer for the dio­cese. He de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

The fed­eral probe is on­go­ing at the same time the state At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice is con­duct­ing a civil in­ves­ti­ga­tion of how eight Catholic dio­ce­ses in New York han­dled sex abuse com­plaints. Buf­falo Bishop Richard J. Malone has pub­licly iden­ti­fied 80 priests who have been cred­i­bly ac­cused of mo­lest­ing mi­nors while re­sist­ing de­mands that he re­sign.

The dio­cese cre­ated the com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram on March 1, 2018, and hired Howe and Gorski to serve as ad­min­is­tra­tors whose de­ci­sions would be bind­ing upon the dio­cese but could be ac­cepted or re­jected by ap­pli­cants to the pro­gram.

Ac­cord­ing to terms of the pro­gram, Howe and Gorski were to con­sider the ex­tent to which the dio­cese and a per­son bring­ing a claim can doc­u­ment and cor­rob­o­rate the “na­ture, fre­quency and time of the al­leged sex­ual abuse.” The ad­min­is­tra­tors, in de­cid­ing to ac­cept or re­ject a claim, also were to con­sider:

•Whether the al­le­ga­tions of abuse are con­sis­tent with those made by other vic­tims.

•Whether the al­leged abuse was re­ported at the time to church of­fi­cials, law en­force­ment, par­ents, friends or oth­ers.

•Whether there are med­i­cal or coun­sel­ing records rel­e­vant to the al­leged abuse.

The amount of the awards was to be based on the na­ture, ex­tent and fre­quency of the abuse and “ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances,” such as the age of the vic­tim, the sever­ity of the abuse, the lo­ca­tion of the abuse, whether there were threats of phys­i­cal harm or re­tal­i­a­tion and “sig­nif­i­cant, ver­i­fi­able and life-al­ter­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age.”

Dioce­san of­fi­cials have de­clined to dis­cuss de­tails about the pro­gram, such as how many peo­ple ap­plied or how much it has paid out in set­tle­ments.

But The Buf­falo News has learned through in­ter­views with abuse vic­tims and at­tor­neys that more than 100 ap­plied to the pro­gram and more than 50 set­tle­ment of­fers have been made so far, to­tal­ing at least $8 mil­lion.

Many vic­tims who ap­plied to the com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram gave de­tailed ac­counts of their abuse and met in per­son with the for­mer judges.

It’s not clear if the dio­cese also pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to the for­mer judges for their de­lib­er­a­tions.

Some lawyers said the con­fi­den­tial struc­ture of the IRCP made it dif­fi­cult to build a credible case for their clients because they weren’t al­lowed ac­cess to any dio­cese files.

The process was vastly dif­fer­ent from civil lit­i­ga­tion, where a court can com­pel both par­ties to pro­duce doc­u­ments and tes­ti­mony. Both sides in lit­i­ga­tion also must be made aware of ev­i­dence or tes­ti­mony brought for­ward by the op­pos­ing side.

The lat­est sub­poena would al­low in­ves­ti­ga­tors to ex­am­ine doc­u­ments that child­hood vic­tims of abuse pro­vided to the IRCP ad­min­is­tra­tors. It might also give them ac­cess to any doc­u­ments the dio­cese gave to IRCP ad­min­is­tra­tors, but not to vic­tims’ lawyers, and to cor­re­spon­dence be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tors and the dio­cese.

For­mer pros­e­cu­tor and Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk said he was not aware of the lat­est sub­poena and had no di­rect knowledge of the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But Fran­cyzk, who now teaches a course on ev­i­dence at the Univer­sity at Buf­falo Law School, said it sug­gested that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are still in a stage of gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion.

“It could be just a mat­ter of being as thor­ough as they can pos­si­bly be,” he said.

But Franczyk also said in­ves­ti­ga­tors could be us­ing the sub­poena as a wedge to get more in­for­ma­tion from the dio­cese.

“It could well be to ver­ify that the dio­cese was fully re­spon­sive to the orig­i­nal re­quest,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.