Woman says teacher grabbed ‘my butt, my arm, my leg’
manently affected her.
“For starters, it taught me at a very young age that you can’t trust anybody in an authority position,” she said.
She didn’t give up on the Catholic Church. She was married in the church, attends Mass and sends her 5-year-old daughter to a parochial school.
“I don’t think God and the religion are responsible for what happened,” DeRosa said. “There are actual humans that did these things that are responsible for not reporting things or molesting people.”
The criminal case
The criminal prosecution of Butler started with a phone call DeRosa made as a high school freshman, said her lawyer, William A. Lorenz Jr. She called a child abuse hotline. Lorenz said his files from the 2014 case show DeRosa said she made the call while she was at Niagara Catholic High School. Younger girls still at St. Dominic Savio at the time told her they had been harassed by Butler. “I literally saw red,” she said. Butler, who lived in the City of Tonawanda, was placed on administrative leave June 4, 2004, when police informed the school of their investigation. He turned himself in several weeks later on a charge of downloading child pornography to a school computer. On Dec. 17, 2004, he pleaded guilty in Niagara County Court to possessing a sexual performance by a child and two counts of child endangerment.
Besides the porn downloads, police accused him of placing his hand on one girl’s thigh under her dress and making an inappropriate comment to another girl. DeRosa was the girl he made the inappropriate comment to.
But child endangerment isn’t among the sex offenses listed in the Child Victims Act.
Lorenz said he believes the new law applies to DeRosa’s case. Butler allegedly displayed child pornography in class. He allegedly touched DeRosa’s buttocks and made her fall against his groin. And he allegedly offered her sexual favors in return for her babysitting, which Lorenz said could be construed as promoting prostitution.
Butler was sentenced March 4, 2005, to 10 years’ probation, beginning with six months in the Niagara County Jail. In 2007, he admitted violating probation rules by viewing adult porn on his personal computer and was resentenced to 16 months to four years in state prison.
Butler was paroled in December 2009 and at some point moved to Florida, where he was convicted in Broward County in 2013 for not registering as a sex offender.
In January 2017, according to federal court documents, Butler was living in Sunrise, Fla., when he was caught in an online FBI sting. An FBI agent reported that Butler responded to an undercover officer’s offer of purported nude photos of a 9-year-old girl by sending a code for a gift card in exchange for sexual videos of the girl.
Butler pleaded guilty to attempted production of child porn, and he was sentenced to 25 years in August 2017 by a federal judge. Today, Butler, 52, is an inmate in a high-security federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss.
Chased, grabbed and ignored
DeRosa said this week that it was common knowledge at St. Dominic Savio School that Butler, who taught a computer class, had child porn on his school computer.
“It would appear on the screen in the middle of class. I don’t think it was on purpose. I think it was a pop-up situation,” DeRosa said.
DeRosa, who was a school cheerleader, said Butler, then 36, often asked her to stay after class and asked her to babysit his children.
“He said he would pay me in sexual favors,” DeRosa said.
The lawsuit asserts that Butler also offered to let the then-13-year-old DeRosa use his cellphone if she would strip naked for him. She refused, and she also rebuffed his attempts to get her inside his car. He would drive alongside her as she walked home from school.
“I just kept walking and he just kept following,” DeRosa said.
There was some physical contact at the school, she said.
Butler grabbed “my back, my butt, my arm, my leg,” she said.
He also allegedly pushed her knees from behind in the cafeteria, causing her to fall backwards against his groin.
In January 2003, DeRosa said, Butler chased her through the school’s hallways after demanding to know whether she was wearing a recording device.
“I ended up hiding in the bathroom and one of the other girls who was on the cheerleading team came in there with me because they obviously could see what was going on,” DeRosa said.
She said other cheerleaders reported the incident, which led to DeRosa telling her story to administrators.
DeRosa said she told the principal and assistant principal about Butler’s conduct.
DeRosa said the school’s canonical administrator, the Rev. Stewart Lindsay, then called her in.
“Father Stewart Lindsay just said, ‘We found nothing.’ He called me a liar, said none of this happened,” DeRosa said. “He actually told me not to talk. He actually got very angry and screamed at me and said, ‘I’m not speaking to you. You’re not permitted to talk.’ ”
“I had one meeting with her and her father, and it was not a contentious meeting,” said Lindsay, who is now senior parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish in Niagara Falls. “It did not happen that way.”
The priest said he was unaware of the new lawsuit.
“This case was already dealt with several years ago,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
“The diocese cooperated with law enforcement in 2004 when the diocese first learned of the teacher’s misconduct,” said Lawlor F. Quinlan III, an attorney for the diocese. “The claims against the diocese are without merit and should be dismissed.”
Diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Spangler declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit, but acknowledged that DeRosa’s complaints about Butler in 2002-03 did not reach diocesan headquarters.
“Regrettably, the complaints regarding Mr. Butler did not reach the diocesan level until 2004,” Spangler wrote in an email. “When the diocese became aware of Mr. Butler’s misconduct, he was removed from his position and prosecuted.”
Vanessa DeRosa said the teacher asked her to babysit his children. “He said he would pay me in sexual favors,” DeRosa recalled.