NJ Catholic boys school faces child sex abuse allegations

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey Tue Jun 5, 2012 7:52pm EDT

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MORRISTOWN, New Jersey (Reuters) - Accusations of child sex abuse at New Jersey's elite Delbarton School widened on Tuesday as two men joined a lawsuit claiming molestation by monks at the Roman Catholic boys academy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Just two days after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke at his son's graduation from Delbarton, Steve Badt, 44, and a second unidentified man joined the suit alleging sexual abuse by robe-clad monks at the picturesque Morristown school.

The lawsuit was first filed in March by Tom Crane and Bill Crane Jr., now in their 40s, the twin sons of a former teacher and administrator at Delbarton, run by the Roman Catholic Benedictine monks of St. Mary's Abbey.

The school typically draws sons of power brokers and those wealthy enough to afford its $27,800 annual tuition.

No one was immediately available for comment at Delbarton or at St. Mary's Abbey.

The lawsuit names Father Luke Travers and former teachers Father Justin Capato, Father Timothy Brennan and Father Benedict Worry, now pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in Linden, N.J.

Like many lawsuits alleging decades-old abuse, the case faces a significant legal hurdle - New Jersey's statute of limitations that requires child sex abuse lawsuits be filed within two years of the victim turning 18.

An exception is made if the victim can prove the memories only surfaced as an adult and realizes emotional damage was caused. Even then, a case may not proceed if a judge believes a victim should have come forward earlier, said attorney Gregory Gianforcaro, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the men.

Badt, 44, who heads a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., that cooks with vegetables from first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden, urged Christie to support a stalled bill in the New Jersey legislature to lift the civil statute of limitations.

Given Christie's link to Delbarton, Badt said the governor should help get the bill passed.

"If he wants to protect his son's friends, he needs to push this through," Badt said.

Gianforcaro said the case is too old to be criminally prosecuted because the incidents occurred before New Jersey in 1996 eliminated its criminal statute of limitations.

Christie's spokesman Mike Drewniak declined to comment other than to say House and Senate versions of the bill "have not moved even in committee."

Badt said his alleged abuse by Brennan, a favorite English teacher, started when he was 12 or 13 and occurred at least four times until he graduated in 1985.

"I was embarrassed. I blamed myself," said Badt, who added that he never told his parents. They are elderly and suffer dementia, which he said he hopes will shield them from learning what he went through.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Lisa Shumaker)

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