Tag: Tallahassee sex abuse

Gari Tookes Horowitz Law

FAMU Professor Gari Tookes Arrested On Three Counts of Child Molestation

According to a Leon County Sheriff’s Office press releaseon April 29, 2021, Professor Gari Tookes was arrested on three counts of child molestation charges (sexual battery, lewd and lascivious battery, and lewd and lascivious molestation) in Tallahassee, Florida.  

Gari Tookes, age 36, a prominent professor at Florida A&M University and Social Worker, was charged with sexually abusing a minor.  Investigators say the abuse began when the child was in elementary school and continue until the boy was a teenager. 

Media reports indicate that on February 23, 2021, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office received information from the Florida Department of Children and Families stating that they received a report through the state hotline detailing the sexual abuse and battery of a minor allegedly made by Gari Tookes. The Sheriff’s Office stated, “Through investigative means, LCSO Violent Crimes detectives learned Tookes had criminal sexual contact with the victim for several years before the report. Detectives also learned Tookes had communicated through text messages about the sexual contact with the victim, which corroborated the victim’s initial report.”

The victim told investigators that Tookes touched him inappropriately and that the abuse “literally happened all the time.” Tookes was arrested and transported to the Leon County Detention Facility. 

Tookes has been an assistant professor at the Florida A&M University’s College of Social Sciences and a research grantee at FAMU’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative. In a March 2020 announcement from the university, he was listed as the school’s Master of Social Work program director. The university originally hired him in August 2018. His relationship with the university is under review.

According to Florida Department of Health records, Tookes is also a clinical social worker, with a license issued in 2016 and valid through 2023. 

Schools are educational institutions in which children can learn and develop skills in a nurturing environment. It is expected that they are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse.  Teachers are entrusted to facilitate learning and support the educational needs of their students. Someone who sexually violates young children has no place working in the school system. Any school in which such a crime is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential teachers and protect their students. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse in schools and other educational settings. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped, or sexually molested by a principal, teacher or another school employee, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.


Fr. Leo Courcy Jr. – Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

Father Leo Courcy Jr.

Archdiocese of New York

Leo J Courcy Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1962

Leaves of Absence/Sick Leave: 1965-1966, 1979-1980

Inpatient Evaluation/Treatment: 1967-1970

Removed: 1993

Laicized: 2009 

Assigned as follows:

  • 1962 – 1965: St. Anthony (Burlington, VT)
  • 1965 -1967: Absent from Burlington Diocese on “Sick Leave”
  • 1966Don Bosco Home (Burlington, VT)
  • 1966St. Francis Xavier (Winooski, VT) 
  • 1966: St. Mark (Burlington, VT)
  • 1967 – 1970: Servants of the Paraclete (Santa Fe, NM) (inpatient treatment)
  • 1967 – 1969Holy Ghost (Albuquerque, NM) (during treatment)
  • 1968 – 1969St. Pius X High School (Albuquerque, NM) (during treatment)
  • 1969 – 1970St. Francis Xavier (Clayton, NM)  (during treatment)
  • 1970: Unidentified parish(Amarillo, Texas) (during treatment)
  • 1969/1970: St. Anthony (Questa, NM) (during treatment)
  • 1970: Clayton High School (Clayton, NM) (during treatment)
  • 1971: St. John Vianney (South Burlington, VT) 
  • 1971: St. Mary (Cambridge / Johnson, VT)
  • 1971: St. George (Ottawa, ONT Canada)
  • 1971-1979: On Duty Outside Burlington Diocese (whereabouts unclear)
  • 1973-1974: Ottawa Archdiocese, Director of Education
  • 1974: Our Lady of Visitation (South Gloucester, ONT Canada)
  • 1974-75  Marist High School  (Bayonne, NJ)
  • 1977: St. Mary of the Assumption (Deal, NJ)
  • 1977-1979: Various assignments in Pensacola, Florida
  • 1978-1979: Pensacola Catholic High School (Pensacola, FL)
  • 1979-1980: Leave of Absence
  • 1979: Chaplain, unknown Queens, NY High School
  • 1980-1984: On Duty Outside Burlington Diocese (whereabouts unclear)
  • 1984-1985: St. Frances de Chantal (Bronx, New York)
  • 1986-1989: On Duty Outside Burlington Diocese (whereabouts unclear)
  • 1988-1990: New York Archdiocese Parish Mission Team (Suffern, NY)
  • 1991-1992: St. Mary (Fishkill, NY)
  • 1992-1993: St. Augustine (New York, NY)
  • 1993-1997: Listed in Official Catholic Directory as “On Duty Outside Diocese”

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Leo Courcy Jr.:

The saga of Fr. Leo Courcy is a complicated one and, after an extended investigation, we have done our best to reconstruct what we believe is his trial of abuse across America.  You may notice some assignments that are not listed and that is likely because there are big gaps in the publicly available information, particularly in the 1970s. For example, Courcy appears in a 1970 high school yearbook in New Mexico and then again in a 1978 yearbook in Pensacola, Florida.  His whereabouts during that time are not entirely clear but he may have worked at other parishes and high schools in Canada or New Jersey. It is documented that he served in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in the late 1970s in between his New Jersey and New York assignments.

Here is what we do know for certain: Father Leo Courcy Jr. worked in Vermont for only approximately 3½ years. He remained a priest of the Burlington Diocese even though he rarely worked there after 1967.  According to the Diocese of Burlington, Bishop Kenneth A. Angell revoked Courcy’s priestly faculties in February 1993, though the exact reason is not clear.  However, media reports show him celebrating a funeral mass in the New York area well after that date. 

The Beginning of the End for Fr. Courcy

Father Courcy was laicized in June 2009, according to the the Diocese of Burlington, while working in NYC.  It is not clear what prompted this action more than 15 years after the Diocese said Courcy was not able to work as a priest. 

There are numerous “red flags” in Courcy’s assignment history that would merit further investigation in a sex abuse lawsuit.  For example, Courcy has several leaves of absence, which may be indicative of temporary removals and quiet transfers following allegations of sexual abuse.  The assignment to the Servants of the Paraclete in 1967 very likely means that Courcy was the subject of at least one allegation of abuse around that time.  It could also mean that he was the subject of repeated allegations as of 1967, because, in our firm’s experience, shipping an accused priest to the Jemez Springs, New Mexico, treatment facility typically came only after repeated allegations and an inability to handle the matter quietly within the diocese. Of course, these questions would be answered with more certainty if either the Burlington Diocese or Archdiocese of Santa Fe provided a full and complete disclosure of Courcy’s history, rather than the limited ones they each published in response to public pressure.

In 1994, according to media reports, a civil lawsuit was filed against the Burlington Diocese and Archdiocese of Santa Fe alleging that Father Courcy and Father Joseph Anthony Gallegos sexually abused an altar boy in New Mexico after Courcy’s treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete facility in Jemez Springs. According to media reports, the lawsuit alleged that Courcy left treatment at the facility and returned to ministry against the advice of at least one psychologist. 

In September 2017, Father Courcy was named in a lawsuit alleging that he sexully abused an altar boy in 1969 while serving as a priest at St. Anthony’s in Questa, New Mexico. That same month, his name appeared publicly on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors. 

In May 2019, Father Courcy was named in another lawsuit against the Servants of the Paraclete, alleging that Courcy sexually abused two boys during an overnight stay at the rectory of St. Anthony’s in Questa, New Mexico, in 1969. According to the suit, one boy was raped and the other molested. According to the lawsuit, the Servants of the Paraclete sent Father Courcy to St. Anthony’s as a supply priest four days after his arrival for his second round of treatment for child sexual abuse. 

In August 2019, Father Courcy‘s name appeared publicly on the Diocese of Burlington’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.  While the Diocese included certain information about Courcy’s background in its disclosure, we have found that much of it is inaccurate and overall it is totally incomplete.  

In 2021, Courcy was named in a sexual abuse and coverup lawsuit filed by Horowitz Law against the Diocese of Burlington in Vermont.

Courcy is now in his 80s and believed to be living in the Syracuse, New York, area.  To our knowledge, he has never been criminally charged for his sexual misconduct and is not a registered sex offender.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in Florida.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Florida, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide. We can help. 

Contact us at (888) 283-9922 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.



On August 2, 2020, a babysitter in Tallahassee was arrested after a 4-year-old pres-chool girl he babysat multiple times told her mother she had been inappropriately touched by her babysitter, Braxton Upshaw. He was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12.

According to court documents, the victim’s mother called the Tallahassee Police Department on October 7, 2019, to report a sexual battery. She told officers that Upshaw, 19, babysat her two kids while she was at work that day. When she returned home, the victim said that Upshaw sexually assaulted her. Her mother also told officers he seemed “very anxious” to leave.

According to court documents, Upshaw had been babysitting at the girl’s house two to four times a week since August 2019 while her parents worked.

His arrest report said, “Upshaw sometimes stays late for dinner and has spent the night before.”  

While being interviewed, the victim told investigators, “He just hurts me all the time.” According to a written statement, the victim said “Braxton touched me with his thing. You know, his big black thing in his pants.” The affidavit said an officer with the special victims unit collected samples from the child for a rape kit. 

Upshaw denied the allegations. According to investigators he said they would not find his DNA on the child and that her DNA would not be found on him. His DNA samples were then collected and sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis.

Less than two weeks after the initial investigation, the victim’s mother reported to investigators that her daughter was playing with her stuffed animals as if they were having sex. When asked about what they were doing, she described the animals doing the things from videos Upshaw had shown her.

Upon Upshaw’s arrest, he was transported to the Leon County Detention Center, where he was held overnight. During his first court appearance August 3, Judge Augustus Aikens Jr. placed him on pretrial release. No bail was required. He was ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device, and to stay away from the victim and her family, as well as any place where there are minors. 

When parents have to work and childcare services are unavailable, they face a tough decision to use a babysitter. Referrals through community connections are explored, as well as considering someone they already know. Once a sitter is chosen, parents take a leap of faith their kids will be cared for and safe. It is unconscionable, unacceptable and unlawful that a child is sexually abused by a babysitter. Someone who sexually violates young children has no place in free society. Anyone who commits sex offenses against children must be held accountable for their wrongdoing and imprisoned. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped or sexually molested, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.