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Attorney's Lawsuit Equates Catholic Church With Organized Crime

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) - A Tonawanda attorney has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Buffalo which includes a strategy best known as one used by federal prosecutors against criminal enterprises such as the mafia. Kevin Stocker's lawsuit, filed on behalf of 23 plaintiffs, alleges the Diocese and its partners engaged in a pattern of behavior intended to protect the church's "brand" and assets at the expense of sexual abuse victims.

Stocker's lawsuit includes a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) civil action that seeks to include accountants and attorneys that, he argues, assisted the Diocese over many years to cover up abuse cases and "fraudulently" hide assets.

"Has anybody brought this in court before? Not that I'm aware of," said Stocker about the RICO action. "We would have to prove our pleadings and allegations. We're just taking a little more aggressive approach to it. It's hopefully to protect future children from harm."

The lawsuit was filed within the first few days of a one-year "look back" period that, under the Child Victims Act, allows plaintiffs previously blocked by a statute of limitation, to seek civil action in older sexual abuse cases.

Stocker explained some of how he'll argue the case, telling WBFO he'll use some of the Diocese's own communications.

"We're going to go forward in court with internal emails that they're sending about destroying confidential documents," he said. "We're going to have to address that."

An official for the Diocese of Buffalo, in a written message to WBFO, stated "The Diocese received a document from the media which is filled with procedural deficiencies and irresponsible claims against parties, some unnamed, who have no connection to the Child Victims Act.  If the claim is pursued, the Diocese and all related entities will respond appropriately."

Stocker says he gets no joy from filing the action, explaining he and his family are active in the Catholic faith. But it's an action, he believes, that will force the church to make changes.

"It's how I see the facts and they're difficult to say," Stocker said. "It's uncomfortable when you're raised as a Catholic, or your children go to Catholic school. When you believe in a certain institution you believe children should be protected and nurtured, not an organization that turns their back on them and let them become victimized."