The sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese of Buffalo continued Monday when a famous attorney came from Boston to take on the diocese.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, portrayed in the 2016 Academy Award-winning Best Picture “Spotlight,” said he’s been inundated with Western New Yorkers who have called him saying they were abused by priests.
“Many of them for years, as innocent children,” Garabedian said. “It’s time for transparency. It’s time for Bishop Malone to step up to the plate.”
Garabedian said in Buffalo, he represents:
- 31 victims of 22 priests
- The victims now range in age from 31 to 71 years old.
- They were allegedly abused between the ages of 5 and 19.
“Who knew what, when?” Garabedian asked. “That’s what victims need to know to heal. That’s what we need to know for crimes to stop. That’s what we need to know for the world to be a safer place for children.”
Garabedian’s most high-profile victim is a man who said he was abused by Father Dennis Riter in 1992. The man told his story to 7 Eyewitness News in May, when he said of Riter, “He pulled his pants down and he made me perform oral sex until he was done.”
Monday, the man testified before the diocese, describing abuse he says happened more than 25 years ago and was reported in writing to the diocese.
“Here we are in 2018 and they’ve decided to look into this matter because they have no choice,” Garabedian said. “They have to look into this matter now. It’s been made public.”
Riter had already been accused by two other men and the diocese was criticized for returning the priest to ministry last month at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk without interviewing the third alleged victim.
In a prepared statement, a diocesan spokeswoman said the diocese made “repeated attempts to interview this alleged victim. Letters were sent to Mr. Garabedian in late May and again in early June but were not responded to until after Fr. Riter was returned to ministry a month later. The diocese still made efforts to investigate the specific allegations even without the ability to speak to the alleged victim.”
Garabedian said the diocese never told him there was a deadline and he said the exoneration of Riter was an attempt at secrecy by the church.
“It’s time for the cover-up to end,” Garabedian said. “It’s time for transparency.”
Rodney O. Personius, a Buffalo attorney who represents Riter, said in a statement, “Fr. Riter has moved past these misguided, unsubstantiated allegations.”