Child Victims Act lawsuit accuses Diocese of Buffalo of racketeering

Western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — One of more than 100 lawsuits filed against the Diocese of Buffalo since Wednesday claims the organization has a “racketeering enterprise”.

Attorney Kevin Stocker filed the lawsuit late Wednesday afternoon on behalf of 23 plaintiffs. It accuses 10 different priests of child sexual abuse.

The one-year window for victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits, no matter their age or when the abuse occurred, under the Child Victims Act opened up Wednesday just after midnight. Since then, a strong majority of the suits filed in Western New York have targeted the Catholic Diocese.

“We’re saying that (the diocese is) similar to a criminal enterprise,” Stocker said about his lawsuit.

The 10 priests named in the suit are Rev. Ronald Silverio, Rev. Basil Ormsby, Rev. Florian Jasinski, Rev. Joseph Persich, Rev. Ronald Sadjack, Rev. Frederick Fingerle, Msgr. Michael Harrington, Msgr. William Stanton, Rev. Theodore Podson, and Rev. Nelson Kinmartin.

Stockers plaintiffs range in age from their mid-30s to their late-70s, he said.

“I’ve never seen another law firm bring this action in this type of setting,” Stocker added.

Most lawsuits filed this week accuse the diocese of negligence in handling child abuse. But Stocker’s suit goes so far as to accuse the diocese of transferring money in anticipation of legal action.

Stocker added, “What is so heartbreaking is when you transfer a person that is known to hurt children to another unsuspecting parish.”

That’s not all. Two of Stocker’s plaintiffs, a former church employee and a volunteer, were let go, the lawsuit claims, because they reported “wrongful conduct” to the diocese. Stocker said that conduct was committed by Rev. David Bialkowski, who is on the diocese’s list of priests who have substantiated claims of abuse filed against them.

Stocker also has concerns about a 2018 email sent to diocesan staff in August 2018. It informed workers at the Catholic Center that administrators were planning a shredding event the following month for what the email refers to as “confidential items”.

“It doesn’t describe what documents should be shredded,” Stocker noted. “But with all that’s going on with a federal investigation, formal investigation, state investigation, they should not be shredding anything.”

A spokesperson for the diocese responded with the following statement: “The Diocese has received a document from the media which is filled with procedural deficiencies and irresponsible claims against parties, some unnamed, who have no connection to the Child Victims Act. If the claim is pursued, the Diocese and all related entities will respond appropriately.”

However, in an email Wednesday night, the spokesperson said, “The Diocese respects (the litigation) process and will respond accordingly.”

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