Top N.Y. Senate Republican goes to pizza party rather than meet with kid-sex victims about law to stop predators
By Michael O’Keeffe and Larry Mcshane (NY Daily News)
May 4, 2016
One of the state Senate’s most powerful Republicans served up a piping-hot slice of “get lost” to three sex abuse survivors on Wednesday.
Instead of meeting with the trio, Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco opted for an afternoon pizza party with the Syracuse women’s basketball team. Steve Jimenez, Kathryn Robb and her sister Dorothy Robb Farrell wanted to talk to the conservative lawmaker about the Child Victims Act.
“I can’t see you now,” DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) told them. “I am sorry.”
The three advocates for the pending bill arrived in DeFrancisco’s Albany digs in hopes of securing his support for legislation to change New York’s statute of limitations on child abuse cases.
DeFrancisco appeared shortly after an aide emerged to say the senator typically meets only with those who make an appointment — and the advocates didn’t have one.
Within minutes of his apology, the Syracuse-area senator was inside a room with the NCAA runners-up Orange hoopsters and about a dozen pizzas were delivered by two men.
Robb, who along with her sister was abused by their older brother, was left outside of the grubfest to argue her case with an office underling.
“This is a very important issue for children,” said Robb, who helped pass similar legislation in Massachusetts. “(New York) is standing and protecting predators, not victims. There is a lot of evidence that suggests false claims are rare.”
Her arguments landed on deaf ears, as an unidentified DeFrancisco aide said the senator would not be swayed.
“An inordinate amount of time has passed,” the aide said. “It is hard for people to come forward and defend themselves. The evidence is fuzzy.”
The reception was only slightly more welcoming during stops at the offices of Republican state Sen. John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Two security guards blocked access to the GOP Majority Leader Flanagan’s office, while a receptionist at Heastie’s office said the visitors had just missed him.
Heastie’s deputy chief of staff Paul Upton said his boss had met earlier in the day with a pro-CVA group called Safe Horizons.
An aide to Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) sent out lawyer Colleen Glavin, a senior counsel to the Senate.
“I can’t speak for the senators,” she said. “We’re obviously aware of the bill, of the issues in the bill. I guess I’m here to listen to what you have to say.”
Steve Jimenez, abused by a Xaverian brother while a student at Holy Name School in Park Slope, Brooklyn, explained how changing the law offered his only shot at some semblance of justice.
“This, to me, is a pressing criminal justice issue,” the Georgetown University graduate told Glavin. “I’ve been coming here for eight years (to lobby for CVA). These women have been coming here for 10 years.
“It is time to pass this bill.”
Kathryn Robb detailed her efforts in Massachusetts, where the statute of limitations on child abuse cases was extended from three years to 35 years.
“We are dumbfounded, frustrated and bewildered that New York is so far behind other states,” said Robb, a member of Massachusetts Citizens for Children. “We want to know where people are standing on this in the leadership.”
In New York, the proposed law would eliminate the existing requirement that civil or criminal cases must be brought before the victims turn 23. The CVA would also give past victims a one-year window to get satisfaction in the courts.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked both Flanagan and Heastie (D-Bronx) to allow a floor vote on the bill.
The trio of sex abuse survivors did find some supporters in the Legislature.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate minority leader, said at a news conference that she intended to work hard to win support for the bill over the next 20 legislative session days before the vote.
Other advocates, during the second of a two-day lobbying effort on behalf of the oft-rejected legislation, turned their eyes to the national stage.
“Spotlight” screenwriter Josh Singer, in a roundtable discussion, fired a shot at both the state politicians and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The billionaire New Yorker needs to back the bill pending in his home state, Singer declared.
“If Republicans refuse to bring this bill to the floor, they are protecting predators,” said Singer. “If Trump does not call for the Republicans to bring this to the floor, he is also protecting predators.”