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Friday, September 19, 2014

Klein now says he’s for Child Victims Act

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Masao Katagami/The Riverdale Press
Sen. Jeff Klein has changed his mind about the Child Victims Act.

Advocates for justice for years of sexual abuse at Horace Mann School and elsewhere are welcoming state Sen. Jeff Klein’s new support of the Child Victims Act, which would end the statue of limitations for sex crimes against minors and open up a one-year window for past cases to come to court.

Advocates previously voiced outrage at the Senate’s inaction on the legislation, with some of them blaming Riverdale’s state Sen. Jeff Klein — one of the most powerful lawmakers in New York — for the bill’s failure to gain traction.

As recently as March 2013, Mr. Klein gave a statement saying he opposes the Child Victims Act. But following a Press story quoting the angry activists, he wrote a letter in these pages saying he, in fact, supports the bill.

“I’m very encouraged by the fresh position expressed by Senator Klein,” said Joseph Cumming, a survivor of abuse at Horace Mann who previously criticized Mr. Klein. “I am happy to withdraw my earlier statement in which I said I would welcome seeing him out of office.”

Mr. Klein, whose office did not make him available for an interview, is fighting a Democratic primary challenge from Riverdale’s former Councilman Oliver Koppell.

Mr. Cumming says he suffered abuse from Horace Mann music teacher Johannes Somary in the early 1970s. But after revelations of decades of abuse emerged in 2012, the Bronx District Attorney’s office said state law prevented prosecution of any of the perpetrators. New York’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors is five years after a victim turns 18.

Mr. Cumming said it took him years to fully realize his treatment at the hands of Mr. Somary — a Riverdalian who died in 2011 — was abuse. He also said he recently settled with Horace Mann, in part so he could advocate for the Child Victims Act without appearing to want a large payout.

Mr. Cumming and Mr. Klein’s office said the advocate and the senator discussed the Child Victims Act, sponsored in the Assembly by Margaret Markey, in a phone call last week.

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