- FILE PHOTO
- Home of the Democrat and Chronicle on Main Street in Rochester.
The new complaint, filed Friday in state Supreme Court, brings the total number of complainants to seven. Last year, Rick Bates became the first to file a suit, followed by four more ex-paperboys earlier this year.
The suit alleges the Democrat & Chronicle either knew, or should have known, that an employee in circulation, Jack Lazeroff, abused young workers in his charge, and did not take proper precautions to protect them. The pair allege they were sexually abused while on paper routes and in other work locations from 1982 to 1985.
Lazeroff died in 2003 at the age of 74.
“Despite the fact that D&C knew or should have known that plaintiffs were in danger of being sexually abused by one of their employees, Lazeroff, the D&C failed to take reasonable steps to protect them from that danger,” reads the lawsuit complaint.
The former paperboys brought the lawsuit under the Child Victims Act (CVA), which allows for victims of child sex abuse to file criminal and civil suits until the age of 55. Prior to the law, the new filers, now in their late 40s, would have been barred from filing complaints at the age of 23.
One of the two new plaintiffs, Kelby Ash, spoke to CITY in November. He detailed his experience with Lazeroff at the age of 12. At one point, Ash informed a person who dropped off the newspapers of his concerns about Lazeroff.
"I'll never forget, his face went white," Ash said. "He was a young guy. And he said, ' Listen, I've heard things about Jack. I think you need to protect yourself. Never be alone with him, always protect yourself.'"
A spokesperson for Gannett, the Democrat & Chronicle's parent company, did not immediately return a request for comment.
All seven of the complainants are represented by the Manhattan-based Marsh Law Firm.
“The more survivors that come forward, the more people are going to come forward that may have witnessed the abuse, and we’re going to realize how widespread this was,” said Brooke Bergen, an associate attorney at Marsh. “That’s true not just of this case, but of all cases being filed under the CVA. We’re just one of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of cases being brought up across the state.”
- PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
- Rick Bates, of Washington, D.C., claims in a lawsuit filed under the Child Victims Act that he was sexually abused as a paperboy for the Democrat and Chronicle in 1983.
The CVA originally left a window until Aug. 14 to file a suit, and was later extended by one year. For Bergen, it’s a critical extension which allows time for more victims to come forward.
“There is a likelihood of there being others out there, who probably feel very alone, and there is an opportunity for them to have a voice, and know that there is still time,” Bergen said.
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.