Lawsuits name more than 20 clerics and employees accused of child sex abuse within Diocese

(Syracuse, NY) – Attorneys from the law firms of Jeff Anderson & Associates and LaFave Wein & Frament, on behalf of numerous courageous survivors, filed 32 child sexual abuse complaints under the New York Child Victims Act (CVA) against the Diocese of Syracuse. Following the COVID-19 court closures, these cases were stuck in limbo as the limited CVA window for survivors of child sexual abuse continued to count down. The firms have now filed a total of 38 lawsuits against the Diocese.

“The courageous survivors who have brought suit today are shining a light on truths that have been shrouded in secrecy for decades,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. “We are grateful to stand with these survivors as they pursue justice and accountability.”

Among the complaints:

  • 4 clerics have been publicly identified for the first time. They include:
    • Father James A. Culver, accused of sexually abusing a minor from approximately 1969 to 1971 at St. John in North Bay, NY and St. Mary in Verona Beach, NY
    • Father William J. Kiefer, accused of sexually abusing a minor from approximately 1945 to 1946 at St. Paul Parish in Oswego, NY
    • Father L. Peter Paige, accused of sexually abusing a minor from approximately 1969 to 1970 at Our Lady of Pompei Parish in Syracuse, NY
    • Father Joseph M. Ploeckl, accused of sexually abusing a minor from approximately 1970 to 1971 at St. Mary in Utica, NY
  • Two complaints name lay teacher James Francis Purtell, who sexually abused two minors between approximately 1979 and 1984 at St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton, NY and Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton, NY. Purtell taught at both schools. He is believed to be residing in the Binghamton area.
  • Four complaints allege abuse by Monsignor Charles H. Eckermann spanning nearly three decades, from approximately 1958 to 1983
  • Three complaints name Father Bernard A. Garstka, and two of these complaints allege abuse during his short tenure at St. Patrick in Taberg, NY in the mid-1960s
  • Three complaints allege abuse by Father Chester A. Misercola at Bishop Cunningham Catholic High School (f/k/a Oswego Catholic High School) in Oswego, where he worked for over 20 years from approximately 1970 to 1992
  • Three complaints name Father Edward C. Madore, who has already been implicated in two lawsuits previously filed by the firms. Father Madore’s whereabouts are unknown.

“Today, each case we’re filing is representative of the immeasurable courage of an individual survivor of egregious abuse. Collectively, these survivors have suffered in silence and without justice for far too long. Today marks a turning point. Their voices and stories will begin, finally, to be heard. In time, these survivors and their fortitude will shape the denormalization of childhood sex abuse in this country, and in doing so, lay a framework for safeguarding generations to come,” said attorney Cynthia LaFave.

Despite Governor Cuomo’s commendable executive order to extend the CVA deadline by five months and, more recently, New York legislators’ unanimous approval of a one-year extension it is best that survivors take action before the initial deadline of August 13, 2020 to take full advantage of their rights under the CVA.

“In choosing to bring suit, these survivors are standing up for themselves and countless other survivors who are still carrying their painful secret,” said attorney Taylor Stippel. “As of right now, fewer than two months remain until the CVA deadline of August 13. For those out there who are thinking about coming forward, now is the time to share your truth.”

Media Coverage:
More people sue Syracuse Catholic Diocese, claiming abuse by priests