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November 5, 2015

Mass Woman Goes to Trial; Helped to Get Statute of Limitations Extended

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."

November 5, 2014

Former priest settles sexual abuse suit

A former Roman Catholic priest has settled a lawsuit alleging that he later sexually abused a 14-year-old student student in New York and Boston, the former student's attorney said Wednesday, as reported by the Times-Picayune and

Sean Leo Rooney served on the faculty at Archbishop Shaw High School from 1975 until 1979.

The lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, said the former student disclosed Rooney's abuse in August 2012. The acts occurred in Boston and New York. Rooney was a teacher at Goshen Junior Seminary in New York from 1979 through 1981, where he befriended the boy and encouraged the youth's interest in photography, Garabedian said.

The student, now 48, said Rooney fondled and masturbated him while traveling on a bus for a school trip in Massachusetts. Rooney also was accused of removing the boy's clothes, touching his buttocks and genitals and masturbating on the victim while at the seminary in New York, according to the lawsuit.

Garabedian said the case was settled with Salesian Society Inc. in New York for "six figures.'' The student also suffered abuse by two other priests, the attorney said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests announced the settlement Wednesday and asked the Archdiocese of New Orleans to issue a public call for information about anyone who may have been harmed by Rooney. The settlement also was published on the website.

Rooney could not be immediately reached. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said she was checking on Rooney's tenure at Shaw.

Ordained in 1959, Rooney was a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco order. In addition to working in Marrero, he worked in Birmingham, Ala., Boston, New York and Indiana. He served for 50 years before he was defrocked in 2008, according to the Bishop Accountability website.

Rooney's name was added to the website's national database, which makes public the names of accused religious. The Survivors Network, an advocacy group for victims, also added Rooney to its list of offenders.

"We hope that anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Rooney -- or any cleric -- will find the courage to speak up, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing,'' said the group's director, David Clohessy.

Rooney could face criminal charges in Massachusetts, Garabedian said, adding that "if he's alive, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"My client should be proud. He has empowered himself and made the world a safer place for children,'' Garabedian said.

He also implored the Archdiocese of New Orleans to report any criminal activity involving Rooney to the state attorney general's office and the public so that the victims may get therapy and counseling.

October 18, 2014

Website Sued Over Teen Sex "Slaves"

Good article by the Boston Herald concerning efforts being made to stop the controversial website from publishing advertisements that have connections to the underground teenage sex trade.

July 8, 2013

Civil Suit in Minny Implicates Mass. Priest

A lawsuit filed in Minnesota charges The Diocese of Crookston (Minn), the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the Servants of the Paraclete group with a dozen counts of nuisance and negligence in their handling of former Priest James Porter.

Porter admitted or was linked to the abuse of more than 100 young boys and girls, dating back to the 1950's. This lawsuit involves the case of a unnamed Minnesota woman, now in her 50's, who alleges that Porter, who died in 2005, molested her while he was a priest at St. Phillips parish in Bemidji in 1969 and 1970.

"And where she and her family had come to trust this very cunning, but very dangerous wolf in shepherd's clothing, Father James Porter," said Attorney Jeff Anderson.

Bemidji is in the Crookson diocese. Porter became a priest and committed sex abuse while in the Fall River diocese. He was treated for his abusive practices by the Servants of the Paraclete group.

It is the first civil lawsuit involving Porter since Minnesota removed the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse.

The suit demands at least $50,000 in damages from that all three entities reveal the names of priests in their organizations who were credibly accused of molesting young people.

Porter, had left the priesthood in 1974, married a woman in Minnesota, lived in Oakdale and fathered 4 children. After admitting to abuse and serving a prison term in Massachusetts of 18-20 years, Porter died of cancer in 2005.

Anderson credited the state's removal of a statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases in 2013 as making it possible to file lawsuits like this one.

"It is possible now," said Anderson. "the doors to the courthouse in Minnesota have now been opened for survivors."

July 12, 2012

Man files sexual abuse lawsuit against Harvard

The Boston Globe reports today that Stephen Embry has filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Harvard University, contending he was repeatedly molested by a swimming coach at the campus from 1969 to 1972. The alleged abuse began when Embry, now 55, was barely 12.

Embry, along with his lawyer, Carmen Durso, also asserts that Harvard misled him about the statute of limitations on abuse claims, and failed to disclose a previous claim brought in 1996 against the university and the swimming coach, Benn Merritt.

The complaint against Harvard, filed by the brother of one of Embry's closest boyhood friends, was dismissed. The suit against Merritt was resolved by settlement, court records show. A few months after the lawsuit was filed, Merritt killed himself in his Billerica home.

The Globe reports today that Embry first contacted a university lawyer shortly after recalling the abuse, and contends that Harvard did not disclose the prior abuse claim against Merritt to deter him from taking legal action.

"They told me they didn't know anything about this, that it happened too long ago," he said to the Globe. "They lied to me."

Citing a 2010 letter to Embry from a university lawyer, Durso told the Globe that the university committed fraud by misrepresenting the state's statute of limitation law.

"They had no legal duty to provide him with information" about the previous case, he said. "But they couldn't mislead him, and that's what they did."

Under Massachusetts law, victims of sexual abuse typically must file a civil claim within three years after they were last abused, or three years after turning 18. Under the "discovery rule," victims can also file a civil claim within three years of when they realized they had been abused, although defendants will often challenge this on statute of limitations grounds.

According to the Boston Globe, in 2010, Ellen Fels Berkman, a university attorney, told Embry that she had "been unable to find anyone who would support your suggestion that Harvard is legally responsible."

"The time has long since passed for bringing a legal claim against the university," she added.

That assertion, Durso says, was fraudulent, and discouraged Embry from pursing legal action.

In a statement issued Wednesday, university officials said "there was nothing to prevent" Embry from taking legal action, and that there was no evidence Harvard was aware of any abuse at the time.

Embry's case and others like it that I am looking into underscore the need to relax the state's statute of limitation laws. Victims may not realize they have been abused until decades later.

"The laws have simply not kept up with the reality of the trauma," said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

Continue reading "Man files sexual abuse lawsuit against Harvard " »

February 2, 2012

Niece accuses Waltham man of rape

The Boston Globe reports that a Burlington woman has filed a civil lawsuit against her uncle, alleging that he raped her repeatedly as a child and subjected her to sexual abuse from 10 other men, before her family coerced her into signing an agreement absolving him from responsibility.

Rosanne Sliney, 48, filed a civil complaint in Middlesex Superior Court accusing Domenic A. Previte Jr., 70, of Waltham, of abuse and stating that he confessed to it years later in a signed letter to his niece. The Globe (and this blog) does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse but the Globe used Sliney's name because she has chosen to go public with her allegations and she included her own name in the complaint.

"You were like a flower in springtime,'' Previte wrote in the letter, according to a copy included in Sliney's complaint. "I admired and respected you and loved you as my own daughter. . . . Somehow things got twisted. . . . I had confused my love for you with sex.''

The abuse at the hands of Previte occurred at locations including his home in Waltham, his car wash business in Cambridge, and a movie theater in Woburn, the complaint states.

Sliney contends the abuse began when she was 5 and lasted until she was about 14. Her family pressured her to sign an agreement in 1991 releasing Previte from any responsibility in exchange for a payment from him of $26,500, according to the complaint.

She alleges in the complaint that she did not understand the nature of the agreement that she signed in her late 20s, because of her damaged mental state after the abuse.

Though Sliney was told that Previte would take care of her for the rest of her life, the complaint states, her uncle has refused to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills related to mental health problems stemming from the abuse.

Sliney also asserts that she has begun during the last year to recall Previte forcing her to engage in sex acts with 10 other men, who are listed as codefendants in the lawsuit, but who are not identified by name.

The state corporations database lists Previte as the president of Previte Real Estate and Investments Inc. in Waltham, a business specializing in car wash purchases and sales.

December 20, 2011

Sex Abuse Allegations Surface in Waltham Schools

A former Waltham Public Schools student has filed a lawsuit alleging that a former Waltham High School principal failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse by a teacher that could have prevented the teacher from abusing him. reports that former student and alleged victim, Michael Phillips Jr., in the lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court on Dec. 16, claims that former Waltham High School Principal and School Committee member-elect John Graceffa failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse against students by Robert Dacey a former drama teacher at John W. McDevitt Middle School, who died in 2007 while he was awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges.

Graceffa currently works as the dean of students at Arlington Catholic High School in Arlington, according to the Boston Globe.

Specifically, Phillips' attorney, Carmen Durso said that Graceffa had been informed three times in 2002 about prior acts of abuse by Dacey, but failed to take action about them.

Dacey allegedly abused Phillips, now 20, in 2005, while a student at McDevitt Middle School. Phillips, after being abused three times, reported it to police in August 2006, according to Durso.

Reached by Waltham Patch yesterday, Graceffa said he had "no idea" about the lawsuit and was shocked to learn about it from a reporter. When asked whether he planned to take his seat on the School Committee early next year, he said, "yes."

Specifically, the lawsuit claims Graceffa violated the state's law that mandates school officials report such incidents to police. The suit also claims the City of Waltham, also named as a defendant, violated Title IX, a federal law requiring schools to have procedures about notice, education and training for reporting sexual abuse.

"Waltham very likely has such procedures but they certainly were not followed in this case. If they had been, Michael ... probably would not have been abused," Durso said.

Dacey died in June 2007, reportedly from a heart attack, while awaiting trial on 17 felony charges of sexual intercourse with a child, assault with intent to rape, indecent assault and battery on child under the age of fourteen, indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, indecent assault and battery on a child over the age of 14, enticement of a child and statutory rape of a child, according to the lawsuit. The charges stem from alleged abuse against three separate boys.

October 8, 2011

Revere van company sued over alleged assaults

A van company hired by the Peabody School Department to transport students to a summer program has been sued on behalf of four children allegedly molested and assaulted by a bus monitor.

The lawsuit filed in September in Salem Superior Court alleges that Ameriken Caring Services of Revere failed to provide safe transportation to the children -- three boys and a girl ages 9 and 10 -- and failed to protect them by negligently hiring, supervising and retaining the monitor.

The Salem News reported that the children allegedly were touched inappropriately, pinched on the thighs hard enough to leave bruises, and suffered other physical abuse. The monitor's name was not disclosed.

August 25, 2011

Woman Files Abuse Suit Against Cape Camp

The Boston Globe reports that a woman who claims she was sexually abused by a janitor at Camp Good News has filed a lawsuit in Barnstable Superior Court. This is the same camp at which Senator Scott Brown has disclosed that he was sexually abused as a child camper.