Lack Of Evidence?
Is there any wonder why survivors of sexual abuse by religious persons in New York State have little or no trust in the judicial system? The New York Police Department received a complaint of sexual abuse against Brother Tom Trager. It investigated the charges, believed the victim, and arrested Trager on several counts, including felonies and misdemeanors. Now the District Attorney of Queens County dismisses the case against Trager because of lack of evidence? It is outrageous. The New York State judicial system, much like the legislative system, is broken and must be fixed. Will Governor Andrew Cuomo take the lead and fix these broken institutions?
On February 28, 2011, I sat in a criminal courtroom in the courthouse on Queens Boulevard and heard a judge say that Trager’s case was headed for a trial that was to last two weeks. What happened between February 28 and mid-April when the case was dismissed? Did Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio of Brooklyn privately or publicly request favors from politicians and deal brokers in the legislature and judiciary? Recall that he supported and made robocalls during the last City Council election asking voters to support the candidates of Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic boss, who since has been exposed and investigated for corruption.
Di Marzio made those calls because Vito Lopez has advocated for opposition to legislation that would give childhood sexual abuse victims their day in court. Recall that Di Marzio hosted a meeting at his residence for the Brooklyn Queens state representatives to threaten them if they didn’t back off supporting Queens Assemblywoman Marge Markey’s bill regarding childhood sex claims by closing Catholic schools and churches in their districts. His threats apparently worked. Queens Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer backed off her co-sponsorship of the bill. Clearly, she feared the prospective loss of votes from Catholics in the Rockaways, Breezy Point, and elsewhere. The Catholic Church continues to exert its influence in New York State politics.
Another Roman Catholic clergyman (Br. Tom Trager) was arrested for sexual abuse. This Roman Catholic clergyman will never spend a day in jail. This Roman Catholic clergyman will proclaim his innocence to the “flock” and some will actually believe him. And this Roman Catholic clergyman may have had a phone call made on his behalf that sprung him from being held accountable for his actions. Unfortunately, children remain at risk.
Did Bishop Di Marzio, the Marianist religious order, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Brooklyn-Queens politicians tap the “right” people to get the Trager case dismissed? It sure sounds like it.
The Queens District Attorney’s office claimed there was not enough evidence to try the case. Evidently, the evidence accumulated by the New York City Police Department was enough to charge Trager with many charges of abuse against a child.
Wasn’t the report of the victim evidence of the crime? Wasn’t his description of what happened to him evidence of the crime? Weren’t the details of the time and place of the abuse evidence? Wasn’t the possible report by the child’s parents that their son was alone with Trager evidence? There wasn’t enough evidence? Will other sexual abuse victims of clergy now retreat into the woodwork because they will feel intimidated? Let’s hope not.
As a society, we have learned much in the past decade about how frequently sexual abuse of children occurs and why victims are hesitant to bring their stories to the authorities. Shame and guilt are two of the principal reasons. Victims are afraid that they will not be believed. What happens now to the 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys who are sexually abused before they turn 18? Do they retreat into silence because there just isn’t enough evidence?
REV. ROBERT HOATSON, PHD
ROAD TO RECOVERY