A Ludlow woman who successfully pushed for new legislation extending the statute of limitations for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits will get her day in court.
Kathy Picard, 52, has said previously she worked for 12 years to push a new bill extending the deadline for alleged victims to sue. The law changed the deadline from age 21 to 53. The bill was signed by former Gov. Deval L. Patrick on June 26, 2014, with Picard present.
The same day, she filed a $1 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court against her stepfather. A trial is imminent.
Picard's suit says Louis Buoniconti began molesting her at age 7 and increased the sexual abuse until she 17 - accusations Buoniconti adamantly denies, according to court records.
Picard filed a 10-page lawsuit detailing abuse she claims began three years after Buoniconti married Picard's mother in 1965. The complaint states the abuse escalated over the years, with Buoniconti first appeasing her with assurances that she was "his special girl" and the need to keep "their special secret." According to the court records, Buoniconti later threatened to break up their family if she told of the alleged abuse.
Buoniconti, who is representing himself with the help of his biological daughter, filed a response to Picard's complaint that essentially consisted of a string of "not guilty" and "never happened" replies.
The Republican does not typically identify victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Picard consented to be identified. She publicly identified herself as a victim of sexual abuse when pushing for the new legislation which made the lawsuit possible.
The lawsuit is in federal court because Picard is a Massachusetts resident and Buoniconti lives in Florida, according to court records.
Picard's lawsuit states she disclosed the alleged abuse to a family member when she was 9, but was told to keep quiet. It adds that she also was physically afraid of Buoniconti.
"Buoniconti, beat the plaintiff and her three sisters with a leather belt, but told the plaintiff he did not smack her as hard as the others because she was his 'special girl,'" it reads.
Picard said she finally began resisting his alleged advances when she was 17, and threatened to expose him, according to the court record.
Buoniconti, a retired U.S. postal worker, was never charged criminally with abusing Picard. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson during a pretrial hearing on Thursday that he intends to submit as evidence at least two photographs suggesting he and Picard had a friendly familial relationship at least into her young adulthood.
He also worried aloud about whether he would get a fair trial, given that there had been some publicity about the case in local newspapers.
"She put the trial date in the (weekly) newspaper. It's in all the grocery stores. I don't see how I'm going to get a fair trial," he told Robertson, who responded that jury selection includes questions about media coverage and whether it compromised the objectivity of prospects.
Robertson also told plaintiff's lawyer John B. Stewart that she called for extra prospective jurors because sexual abuse is a pervasive issue for many people.
"It actually takes a while to select a jury when there are allegations of this nature," the judge said. "That's why I've called in a much larger group for jury selection than usual."