GRAND Jury Diocese Venice sexual lawsuit

Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Clergy Abuse Has Ties to Southwest Florida

A two-year grand jury probe into decades of sexual misconduct by over 300 abusive Catholic priests in six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania has produced some startling and disturbing findings. The lengthy reports details over 1100 child victims and a culture of secrecy in which the reputation of the church was valued by Bishops and Diocese officials above the safety of children.

Although the report only addresses incidents of abuse in Pennsylvania, there is a noteworthy connection to the Diocese of Venice and to priests living in Southwest Florida .

Father Robert J. Brague 

Father Robert Brague served as a priest in Naples at St. Ann’s in 1990.  Prior to that he served in the Diocese of Scranton where he was accused of child sexual abuse.  The Diocese of Scranton was placed on noticed in 1988 that Brague, then pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Towanda, was having sexual contact with a girl beginning when she was 17. He initially denied the relationship but confessed when the girl got pregnant. In April, 1989, the victim gave birth to a baby boy.

On August 25, 1989, the Bishop in Scranton sent a letter to Rev. John Nevins, Bishop of Venice, Florida, saying that Brague would no longer be able to exercise his priesthood in the Diocese of Scranton, but that he wholeheartedly approved of Brague exercising his priesthood in Venice and highly recommended Brague. On Jan. 19, 1990, Brague was appointed Parochial Vicar of St. Ann’s church in Naples, Florida. The Pennsylvania victim filed a civil suit against Brague and the Diocese that was settled in 1995. Brague continued to serve as a priest in Florida until his death in 1997, at age 56.

Father Sean Kerins

The Grand Jury report state he sent inappropriate text messages to a student at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage Pennsylvania.  Less than a year after ordination he was removed from the priesthood in 2018 by the Diocese of Erie.  Kennis is current ‘under law enforcement investigation’ and living in Naples.

Father Thomas O’Donnell

According to the Grand Jury report, parents in Pennsylvania say he forced their kids to shower in front of him naked and weigh themselves in the late 1980’s Parents also reported O’Donnell made children sleep next to him and speaking to them about inappropriatee sexual topics. O’Donnell has lived in Fort Myers for more than 10 years.

The lengthy report uncovers incidents of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1947 in six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.  In some cases, children were plied with alcohol or other drugs being abused.  The descriptions of the abuse itself are both graphic and disturbing.  But equally troubling is the recklessness with which abusive priests were transferred from parish to parish or given warnings and allowed to proceed as if nothing had occurred.  By way of example, the report notes that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for eighteen years, would in some cases allow abusive priests to remain in the ministry working with youth in parishes.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania who wish to pursue a civil lawsuit.  Our law firm also represents victims of abuse by clergy of all religious denominations in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

Benestad priest Boca

Priest Thomas Benestad of Boca Raton Parish Had History of Abuse Per Grand Jury Report

Monsignor Thomas Benestad assisted at Ascension Catholic Church in Boca Raton between 2007 and 2011.  Parishioners are now learning for the first time from a Grand Jury Report that Benestad was accused of child sexual abuse dating back to his tenure as a priest of the Diocese of Allentown in the 1980’s.  This alleged abuse is documented in the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clergy sexual abuse.  Although the District Attorney’s office found this claim “credible”, it had not been previously disclosed by the Diocese of Palm Beach pr Ascension Catholic Church to its parishioners.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report says that the alleged victim told the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office that he was abuse by Benestad while attending religious education classes at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in Easton, Pennsylvania. He told investigators a nun removed him from class for wearing shorts and brought him to Benestad’s office  According to the report, Benestad made the boy “get on his knees and start praying” on account of his improper attire.  Benestad then unzipped his own pants and had the boy perform oral sex on him. Benestad then performed oral sex on the child, according to the report. After the act, Benestad alleged squirted holy water into the victim’s mouth to “purify him.”  The office found the complaint “credible” but Benestad was never criminally charged due to expiration of the statute of limitations.

This alleged incident highlight the drastic need for legislative reform on civil and criminal statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse.  Too many cases are not being prosecuted because of harsh limitations deadlines.  If you were a victim or know someone who was victim of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania, we urge you to report the crime to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at 1-888-538-8541 to report it.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania who wish to pursue a civil lawsuit.  Our law firm also represents victims of abuse by clergy of all religious denominations in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

 

The outside of Katz Jewish Community Center | Adam Horowitz Law

Katz Jewish Community Center Counselor in New Jersey Investigated for Sex Abuse of Minors

An assistant counselor at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill is accused of sexual abuse of young campers at the early childhood camp. The identity of the male counselor is not being publicly disclosed because he is under age eighteen.  Katz JCC is located at 1301 Springdale Road in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Cases involving the abuse of young children is particularly heart-wrenching as they are the most vulnerable members of our society.  Sexual abuse can be a confusing experience for young children — especially when it is committed by someone they like or view to be in a position of trust.  The alleged victims who reported this incident and gave statements to law enforcement are courageous.

This alleged incidents are a reminder that  no matter how picturesque a camp looks in its brochures, the risk of childhood sexual abuse in summer camp exists and it occurs more often than most people realize.  Just yesterday, the associate director of Camp Live Oak in Florida was arrested on charges that he molested a 10-year old girl who attended the camp where he worked.  No matter what we do to protect our children, there is always a risk that they may be harmed when they are away from us. In most states, there are laws in place to keep sexual predators out of daycare centers and schools. Rarely do the same prohibitions apply in the summer camp setting.

Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in representing victims of child sexual abuse at summer camps in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse at any summer camp, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

GRAND Jury Diocese Venice sexual lawsuit

What Happens Now That Grand Jury Report on Clergy Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania Is Published?

A two-year grand jury probe into decades of sexual misconduct by over three hundred abusive Catholic priests in six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania has produced some startling and disturbing findings. The lengthy reports details over 1100 child victims and a culture of secrecy in which the reputation of the church was valued by Bishops and Diocese officials above the safety of children.

The release of the Grand Jury report is the culmination of a hard-fought court battle pitting victims and their advocates against the church.  The Dioceses fought to keep these records confidential and out of the public record. The Court struck a compromise in which the report was released with redactions.

Child advocates and the victims themselves expressed gratitude that the report has been made public, although many still wish to have redacted information revealed to expose certain wrongdoers.  Sadly, in almost every case of abuse documented in the grand jury report, it is too late for criminal prosecution.  Nevertheless, victims and their advocates hope the transparency of the report will cause reform within the church, a heightened focus on child safety, and ultimately legislative reform to allow victims of older claims to bring civil lawsuits against the church in Pennsylvania that are otherwise barred by the civil statute of limitations. 

The lengthy report uncovers incident of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1947 in six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.  In some cases, children were plied with alcohol or other drugs being abused.  The descriptions of the abuse itself are both graphic and disturbing.  But equally troubling is the recklessness with which abusive priests were transferred from parish to parish or given warnings and allowed to proceed as if nothing had occurred.  By way of example, the report notes that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for eighteen years, would in some cases allow abusive priests to remain in the ministry working with youth in parishes.

If you were a victim or know someone who was victim of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania, we urge you to report the crime to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at 1-888-538-8541 to report it.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania who wish to pursue a civil lawsuit.  Our law firm also represents victims of abuse by clergy of all religious denominations in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

mughshot Christopher Falzone - Adam Horowitz Law

Camp Live Oak Associate Director, Christopher Falzone, Arrested on Child Molestation Charge

Christopher Falzone, the associate director of Camp Live Oak, is accused of molesting a 10-year old girl who attended the camp where he worked.  Falzone is 35-years old.  He is accused of molesting the camper on 15 occasions when the campers would go to the beach or while they were on the bus together.  As is often the case with child sexual abuse, this does not appear to be an isolated incident by the alleged perpetrator.  In 2013, Falzone was working as a substitute teacher at Sheridan Elementary School and four students reported the he inappropriately touched them

The alleged victim at Camp Live Oak told police she was alone with Falzone because she had broken her arm earlier in the summer and was unable to participate in swimming so Falzone sat with her while the other campers swam at the beach. Camp Live Oak has two locations — Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach.

During Falzone’s interview with police, they said he admitted to communicating with the victim on Facebook and whispering, “I love you” in her ear. However, he claimed he did not remember touching her. Falzone had worked at Camp Live Oak for eight years.  His picture and biography were quickly removed from the camp’s website but his pictures remain on the camp’s Instagram account.   Falzone is also a third-grade teacher at Renaissance Charter School in Cooper City.  According to Falzone’s LinkedIn bio, he previously worked as the Music Director at Two Rivers Church in Cooper City between 2012 and Volunteer Coordinator at the Young At Art Museum in Davie for six months from 2013 to 2014; and was a substitute teacher at Sheridan Hills Elementary from November 2008 through June 2013.

The alleged molestation was revealed when the child’s mother found that her daughter was talking on her cell phone with an adult male.  This resulted in further inquiry and discovery of inappropriate messages exchanged between Falzone and the minor.

Falzone’s arrest is a reminder that  no matter how picturesque the camp looks in its brochures, the risk of childhood sexual abuse in summer camp exists and it occurs more often than most people realize. No matter what we do to protect our children, there is always a risk that they may be harmed when they are away from us. In most states, there are laws in place to keep sexual predators out of daycare centers and schools. Rarely do the same prohibitions apply in the summer camp setting.

It is also a reminder for adults to be vigilant in monitoring the cell phone and social media use of children.  Parents should have access to and be aware of all messages exchanged by their children.

Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in representing victims of child sexual abuse at summer camps in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse at any summer camp, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

Robert Brush, LMT sexual massage

Health Dept. Restricts Fort Lauderdale Massage Therapist Robert Brush Jr.’s License

Fort Lauderdale massage therapist Robert James Brush Jr.’s massage therapy license has been restricted in an Emergency Order issued by the Florida Department of Health Surgeon General on August 10, 2018.  According to the Surgeon General, Robert Brush sexually assaulted a 48-year old female client at Hands on Health of South Florida when he put his fingers on her vagina and breasts at various times during the massage.  Brush is the owner of Hands on Health, which is  is located at 231 Southeast 12th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As a result of the Emergency Order, Brush may not practice massage therapy on female clients.  The Order states that “Brush’s continued unrestricted practice as a massage therapist constitutes an immediate serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and this summary procedure is fair under the circumstances to adequately protect the public.  Brush has been licensed as a massage therapist since 1999.

All sexual contact between a massage therapist and client violates Florida law.  Clients of massage therapists are placed in isolated, vulnerable settings where they can be subject to abuse by  massage therapists. Due to the potential for abuse that is inherent under these circumstances, massage therapists must possess good judgment and moral character to safely practice massage therapy.  Massage therapy ethics and criminal law prohibit a message therapist from abusing his professional relationship with a client by engaging or attempting to engage a patient in sexual activity outside the scope of practice.

We often see in these cases that the victims go in to a “state of shock” when the sexual contact first occurs.  This is normal.  When a person is trying to relax in a darkened room while getting a massage, sexual assault should be the last thing you expect.  As a result, it often traumatic and shocking and the victim is often left temporarily speechless if not immobile while processing what is occurring.

If you have a been a victim of sexual assault in a spa or during a massage, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

florence fruehan sexual

Flagler County Doctor Florence Fruehan Facing Sexual Misconduct Claims

Palm Coast’s Dr. Florence Fruehan is under criminal investigation by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office following multiple claims of sexual misconduct with female clients. Dr. Fruehan had been the subject of similar complaints in the past but managed to avoid criminal punishment or discipline by the Department of Health.  But in a June 29, 2018 Emergency Order, the State Surgeon General ordered the immediate restriction of Dr. Fruehan’s license to practice as a physician in the State of Florida.  He is not permitted to treat or interact with female patients without another licensed healthcare professional present.  Dr. Fruehan is an urgent care doctor on Pine Cone Drive in Palm Coast. His Department of Health profile states that he has privileges at Memorial Hospitals in Ormond Beach and Flagler.

The Emergency Order is based on allegations by one of Dr. Fruehan’s patients, a 54-year-old Palm Coast woman identified as “J.M.”  She reports she was seen by Dr. Fruehan and treated for epilepsy for the past two years. During a May 24, 2018 visit, she said Dr. Fruehan led her into an exam room after she told him she was due for a mammogram and groped both of her breasts through her blouse and bra.  Earlier in the visit, Dr. Fruehan had learned that J.W. recently became a widow.

Dr. Florence Fruehan was previously charged with sexual battery in May 2006 after a 26-year-old Palm Coast woman accused him of touching her inappropriately during an exam while her husband was in the room.  Flagler County courthouse records also indicate that  Dr.. Fruehan was the subject of two arrests for misdemeanor battery–on June 23, 1995, and  on Jan. 16, 1996. The charges were dropped.

The Flager County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who was a patient of Dr. Fruehan and feels that they had an inappropriate experience to file a formal complaint by calling (386) 313-4911.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted by a physician or at a doctor’s office or hospital, it is important to have a lawyer experienced in these matters. We are experienced in handling cases involving sexual assault by doctors and other medical personnel. If you have a been a victim of sexual assault by a doctor in a hospital or medical office, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com 

 

Massage Envy lawyer

Therapist at Massage Envy in Hollywood Florida Accused of Sexual Misconduct

A massage therapist at the downtown Hollywood, Florida franchise of Massage Envy is the latest massage therapist accused of sexual misconduct on a female client.   According to a report on WSVN, a South Florida woman was looking to get a relaxing massage, but instead — she says she got sexually violated by her therapist.

According to the client, she removed her clothing and covered herself with a sheet before her massage therapist came into the room.   She says not long after the massage started, he started complimenting her appearance.  The woman reports that the therapist then recommended a “Thai massage” to relieve tightness.  Moments later, she says he got on top of her.  The client stated, “I feel his body weight go forward on me, on my back. And then I feel his breathing, kind of like over my neck area. Two seconds, three seconds … I feel him, just basically getting an erection over my tailbone. When I felt him get the erection, I knew something was wrong.”  The client was frightened at what would happen next but  managed to escape from therapist.

This alleged incident is a remind that all massage therapist in Florida are licensed by the Florida Department of Health.  Other states have similar licensing boards.  If your massage therapist makes any sexual contact with you, it is violation of professional ethics and may be a crime.  In addition to reporting misconduct to law enforcement, you can also lodge a complaint with the Department of Health at this website: https://www.flhealthcomplaint.gov

If you have a been a victim of sexual assault in a spa or during a massage, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonnie Barto pediatrician lawsuit sexual

Pennsylvania Pediatrician Johnnie “Jack” Barto Faces Dozens of Child Abuse Charges

Dr. Johnnie Wilson “Jack” Barto,  a 70-year old Pennsylvania pediatrician, faces dozens of child molestation charges after police say twenty-nine victims have come forward to allege he sexually abused them, in some cases as their unaware parents were in the same room.   The accusations go as far back as 1990, and as recent as early 2018.  Dr. Barto is accused of using his pediatric practice “to feed his own sexual desires.”  The majority of the incidents identified in the criminal complaint took place at Barto’s Richland Township office at Laurel Pediatrics, while others allegedly took place at Conemaugh Hospital or the Laurel Pediatrics Office in Somerset County.

The attorney general said Dr. Barto “violated every tenet of his oath as a doctor and as a decent human being — violating the trust of his victims, their parents and of the entire community.”  At this time no civil lawsuit are pending against Dr. Barto or his medical practice.

Dr. Barto was first arrested in January after allegedly fondling the genitals of children as young as two weeks old when they came in for ear infections and sore throats.  Victims told prosecutors that Dr. Barto would either use his body to shield the genital exams from parents in the room, ask parents to leave the exam room, or tell parents that the genital “examinations” with ungloved hands were routine.

The abuse occurred during routine wellness checks, physicals and for visits related to conditions such as influenza symptoms, seizures, kidney stones, ear infections and sore throats.  Police said he molested both girls and boys, though most of the alleged victims were girls. The charging documents said Barto used his bare fingers to digitally penetrate girls and fondle the genitals of boys. Dr. Barto was accused in 1998 of sexually molesting two girls during office visits. He was never charged criminally and denied the allegations. Two years later the Board of Medicine determined he could keep his license, ruling the allegations lacked evidence.

The mother of two other  alleged victims, a 10-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother, complained to the family’s regular pediatrician after Barto reached inside both children’s underwear “and began feeling around each of their genitals,” police wrote.  The family’s primary pediatrician, who worked in the same medical practice as Barto, told the mother that Barto “has an ‘odd bedside manner’and she believed he possibly suffers from Asperger’s disease,” police said in the arrest affidavit.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted by a physician or at a doctor’s office or hospital, it is important to have an experienced lawyer acting on  the victim’s behalf. We are experienced in handling cases involving sexual assault by doctors and other medical personnel. If you have a been a victim of sexual assault by a doctor in a hospital or medical office, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com 

GRAND Jury Diocese Venice sexual lawsuit

Grand Jury Report on Over 300 Abusive Priests in Pennsylvania to Be Made Public

 

Six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania are the subject of a two-year grand jury probe into decades of sexual misconduct by over 300 Catholic priests. The 900-page report is expected to contain details of widespread abuse by priest over many decades and efforts by church leaders to conceal and protect the abusive priests. The probe involved dozens of witnesses and more than half a million pages of internal church documents.

At the the conclusion of the probe, the Diocese fought and lobbied to keep the Grand Jury report confidential to conceal the wrongdoing from publicly exposed.  Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie last week warned that the report would be graphic and implicate high-ranking church officials.  Victims and their advocates who argued for the public release are now rejoicing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a non-negotiable deadline to release the findings of an 18-month-long investigation into clergy sex abuse.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices said the report on clergy child sexual abuse going back decades and allegations of cover-up efforts will be made public but without the names or “individual specific information” of priests and others who have challenged the findings, at least in the initial version to be released.  The Court wants the redaction process to be completed by Aug. 8, when the 900-page report is expected to be made public. If there are disputes about what a court-appointed special master should black out, the report will go out the following week.

The grand jury investigation looked into six of the eight dioceses covering Pennsylvania: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Diocese of Allentown-Johnstown are not part of the probe as they were the subject of prior Grand Jury reports.  Both of those investigations revealed widespread sexual abuse priests in those Dioceses.