ALBANY – In light of the recent explosive report from a Pennsylvania Grand Jury regarding sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania Catholic Churches and the subsequent coverup, WNYNewsNow reached out to New York State Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood to see if New York has or will have a similar activity.
New York Attorney General Communications Director & Senior Policy Advisor Amy Spitalnick told WNYNewsNow that “Under N.Y. law, our office does not have plenary (standing) criminal jurisdiction — which means we do not have jurisdiction to launch a criminal investigation into sex abuse cases. In New York, that is squarely within the DAs’ jurisdiction. (For your understanding, the Pennsylvania AG has different jurisdiction than we do, as all states have different statutes on these issues.”
Spitalnick said Underwood support’s Pennsylvania’s efforts.
“Attorney General Underwood commends Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro on his investigative grand jury report, which was the result of two years of rigorous investigation that included the review of over 2 million documents, extensive interviews, and much more. That investigation shined a light on truly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic priests against hundreds of children, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in dioceses across that state,” she said.
With that in mind, Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson responded with a comment on the current situation.
“We typically do not get complaints directly. If we do, we refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation,” Swanson said. “I am not aware of any pending allegations involving the Catholic church in our county but I also do not receive every complaint. Some people go directly to police. These cases are something that we are aware of and in the event we receive a complaint it will be fully investigated.”
Spitalnick went on to say the cooperation between her office and DAs throughout the state is vital in battling child exploitation and abuse.
“Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well. The Attorney General has directed her Criminal Division leadership to reach out to local District Attorneys — who are the only entities that currently have the power to convene a grand jury to investigate these matters — in order to establish a potential partnership on this issue,” the spokesman said. “But, make no mistake, the only way justice can fully and truly be served in these cases is if the Legislature passes the Child Victims Act. Victims of abuse deserve their day in court — and justice.”