By Michael O'Keeffe (NY Daily News)
April 25, 2016
Many childhood sexual abuse survivors dream about confronting their predators in a court of law.
Jimmy Carlino actually got that opportunity five years ago, when legendary New York basketball coach Bob Oliva pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom to two counts of rape of a child.
“I now realize I lost my childhood to Bob Oliva,” Carlino said, sobbing as he read an emotional victim impact state on April 4, 2011, after the Christ the King Regional High School icon — who coached Lamar Odom, Jayson Williams and dozens of other players who went on to Division I and NBA teams — acknowledged that he had sexually abused the then-14-year-old during a 1976 trip to Massachusetts.
Carlino, a former Queens resident, may have had an opportunity to confront his sexual predator, who now lives in South Carolina and was sentenced to five years of probation.
But he hasn’t been able to escape the depression and anxiety he says is linked to the abuse that has dogged him for decades.
Thanks to New York’s statute of limitations, which bars sexual abuse survivors from pursuing civil lawsuits or criminal charges after their 23rd birthday, Carlino, who now lives in Florida, is unable to pursue compensation for the damages he says Oliva caused to his emotional and financial health.
“If I was financially secure I think my life would be better,” Carlino said. “It’s not going to heal me, but I wouldn’t have to worry about my bills at the end of every month. I’d have money to help myself and help other victims.”
Mitchell Garabedian — the Boston sexual abuse attorney featured in the movie “Spotlight” — announced immediately after the 2011 guilty plea that he had filed a $20 million lawsuit on behalf of Carlino against Oliva, Christ the King, the Diocese of Brooklyn and other Catholic institutions in New York Supreme Court.
But the New York court dismissed the case against the deep-pocket institutional defendants because of the statute of limitations.
The only defendant now left is Oliva, who lives in South Carolina and, according to his attorney, doesn’t have any money.
“He’s an older guy with nothing but Social Security,” lawyer Henry Weil said.
The lawsuit has been stalled for several years, said Carlino’s current attorney, Michael Dowd, because Oliva has refused to sit for a deposition, citing poor health.
Some of Oliva’s former friends believe the longtime coach has more money than Weil says.
“Oliva was a guy who bragged about all the money he made from the summer camps he ran at Christ the King,” said sports TV producer Sam Albano.
“My question is, ‘What happened to all that money, Bob? You sure bragged about it.’ If Bob had his teams play defense the way he is playing defense on this lawsuit, his teams would have gone undefeated.”
New York law-enforcement officials were unable to pursue criminal charges against Oliva after Carlino, who says the coach molested him hundreds of times from 1974 to 1978, accused him of sexual abuse in 2008 because of the statute of limitations.
But Boston prosecutors didn’t face such hurdles because the statute of limitations clock stops ticking when a suspect leaves Massachusetts, and Carlino said he is grateful that Beantown prosecutors helped him get justice.
Leora Joseph, the former Suffolk County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Oliva, said the case was complicated because witnesses die, memories fade and evidence is lost. But she said barring sexual abuse survivors from pursuing cases after their 23rd birthday is unfair.
“When you are 23 years old, you are not a fully-formed adult,” says Joseph, now a prosecutor in Colorado. “Coming forward is a bold step at the beginning of adulthood. It is a step that needs strength and gravity that people may not have when they are 23. It’s just an arbitrary number and it should really be based on science and reason.”
Carlino said he is glad the sexual abuse he said has left him emotionally crippled is no longer a secret. He said he appreciates the support he received along his journey — particularly from Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball, who hugged him after he read his victim impact statement.
He’s also a fan of New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, whose Child Victims Act would eliminate the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases and open up a one-year window for older victims to pursue litigation.
“She’s a hell of a woman and a great advocate for sexual abuse victims,” Carlino said.
Carlino said he has mixed feelings about that morning five years ago when he saw Oliva, a longtime family friend, plead guilty to sexual abuse.
“It felt good to hear him say he was sorry,”Carlino said. “I didn’t want to hurt him. I wanted to make sure he didn’t do it to other kids. Part of me is sad that he went through that and is all alone.
“Then I say to myself, ‘F--- him.’”