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Alleged Sexual Abuse Victim files suit against former priests

Michael F. Mooney, 42, of Charlton, claims to have been abused by now-deceased Rev. Donald Starks and Mark Haight, who left the priesthood after his alleged past of sexual misdeeds with minors came back to haunt him in 1996.  Mooney claims he was 14 years old when Haight, and later Starks, allegedly molested him during separate trips to Massachusetts, which is where a $3 million lawsuit was filed Tuesday.

The now-married father of three says he met both priests at St. Francis de Sales Church in Colonie, where Mooney was an altar boy in the 1970s.   "No one wants to file lawsuits and relive these painful and hurtful events," said Mooney, seated with his attorney, John Aretakis, in the Albany County Courthouse jurors lounge.   "I was very active in the church and crossed paths with two priests who changed my life forever. ... Both of these priests not only sexually abused me, but stole a valuable part of my spirit and faith," added the longtime state Department of Labor employee.

Mooney discussed how one night in the late 1970s after attending religious instruction, Haight asked him to take a ride in a small plane the priest owned and operated.   Before taking to the skies, Mooney claims the priest allegedly wrestled with him and fondled his private parts in the car. After that, the two allegedly got into the plane and flew over parts of Albany, Troy, Pittsfield and Massachusetts. According to Mooney, the priest allegedly "thought it was funny" to turn off the engine a few times while they were flying, but Mooney recalled being terrified by the incident.

Mooney never associated with Haight again, but then encountered Starks, who the victim alleges "would frequently rub" his back all the way down to the elastic on his underwear and snap it.   Just after one of Mooney's birthdays, he says, Starks offered to bring him on a business trip to Boston, where the plaintiff alleges Starks "wined and dined" him and then sexually molested him.
"I was seeing him (Starks) for help with personal problems," said Mooney. "He would tutor me and then he would always touch me in ways I don't care to describe." 

Mooney and his attorney also criticized Bishop Howard Hubbard for allowing Haight to continue his tenure as a priest, even though he was a "known pedophile" within the Albany Diocese.   "Hubbard should step down. ... He continues to mislead and protect bad priests and has hijacked the mission of the church to protect himself by making careless decisions for over 20 years," said Mooney.
Not much is known about Starks' past, but Haight has a long history of alleged victims.   In 1989, the Albany Diocese settled a case for an undisclosed amount with an alleged victim from the 1970s.

Haight was then sent away for treatment, but returned to the Albany Diocese after rehabilitation as a chaplain at Glens Falls Hospital.
"Following treatment, a psychologist said he could return to limited duties, such as a hospital," said Albany Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb. Goldfarb also pointed out that all of the known alleged incidents of sexual abuse associated with Haight occurred before he was assigned to the hospital in 1990. "He (Haight) was removed in 1996 (for good) after the diocese learned of a second incident, both of which occurred before 1990," said Goldfarb. "We don't know of any case where he repeated any acts after being put back in ministry."

Haight was then sent away for treatment, but returned to the Albany Diocese after rehabilitation as a chaplain at Glens Falls Hospital.
"Following treatment, a psychologist said he could return to limited duties, such as a hospital," said Albany Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb. Goldfarb also pointed out that all of the known alleged incidents of sexual abuse associated with Haight occurred before he was assigned to the hospital in 1990. "He (Haight) was removed in 1996 (for good) after the diocese learned of a second incident, both of which occurred before 1990," said Goldfarb. "We don't know of any case where he repeated any acts after being put back in ministry."

Haight was then sent away for treatment, but returned to the Albany Diocese after rehabilitation as a chaplain at Glens Falls Hospital.
"Following treatment, a psychologist said he could return to limited duties, such as a hospital," said Albany Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb. Goldfarb also pointed out that all of the known alleged incidents of sexual abuse associated with Haight occurred before he was assigned to the hospital in 1990. "He (Haight) was removed in 1996 (for good) after the diocese learned of a second incident, both of which occurred before 1990," said Goldfarb. "We don't know of any case where he repeated any acts after being put back in ministry."

Haight was then sent away for treatment, but returned to the Albany Diocese after rehabilitation as a chaplain at Glens Falls Hospital.
"Following treatment, a psychologist said he could return to limited duties, such as a hospital," said Albany Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb. Goldfarb also pointed out that all of the known alleged incidents of sexual abuse associated with Haight occurred before he was assigned to the hospital in 1990. "He (Haight) was removed in 1996 (for good) after the diocese learned of a second incident, both of which occurred before 1990," said Goldfarb. "We don't know of any case where he repeated any acts after being put back in ministry."

Haight was finally asked to step down from his duties in 1996, after the diocese paid out a $1 million settlement to one of Aretakis' clients, who continues to request anonymity.   That case wasn't made public until 2002, when area television and newspapers, as well as The New York Times, filed stories on the matter after Hubbard decided to stop making victims sign confidentiality agreements in settlements.   In 2002, Hubbard called the $1 million settlement that brought to light the clergy sex abuse scandal in Albany "atypical and unusually high."

In 1974, Haight was serving as a hospital chaplain at Albany Memorial Hospital, where one of his alleged victims, who won a settlement, was 12 years old and recovering from an operation at the time they first met.   Haight was known to dress in a clown suit at the hospital.   He could not be contacted for comment.

Diocese officials said they had not yet had a chance to review copies of the 23-page summons submitted by Aretakis to the Suffolk County Superior Court.  Aretakis said he is currently representing six more alleged victims of Haight, who have yet to file lawsuits.

Source: The Record

 
 

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