Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Friday he stands ready to help the State Attorney General in its statewide probe of the Catholic Church, but he will not immediately convene a grand jury of his own.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood has already issued civil subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses throughout the state, including the Diocese of Buffalo, where more than 80 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct and 7 Eyewitness News I-Team reports have described a pattern of returning priests to active ministry after allegations of sexual abuse.
“Right now I have offered my services to the Attorney General's Office if they need any help in reviewing the documents that they get as part of the subpoenas that they're issuing out here, my people stand willing and ready to help,” Flynn said.
While the AG is pursuing a civil investigation, officials have said only local district attorneys in New York can convene criminal grand juries.
"The Attorney General’s Criminal Division is also seeking to partner with District Attorneys – who are the only entities that currently have the power to convene grand juries to investigate these matters – to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations," the attorney general said in a statement.
Flynn said that may be a possibility but will not happen at the moment because he has no cases in front of him that fall within the statute of limitations.
“If it leads to perhaps the necessity of convening a criminal grand jury or doing a criminal investigation, then we will work together on that as well,” Flynn said. “We haven't finalized the logistics of that yet.”
Flynn and Underwood both urged the State Legislature to pass the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations for criminal sexual abuse charges against children.
Asked about potential outcomes of a civil investigation and whether a statewide report similar to the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report could be generated at the end of the New York investigation, Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
Click here to view a video of Flynn's extended comments.