A New York clergyman has been arrested on charges of soliciting sex from an underaged boy and on numerous child pornography allegations. Rev. Francis Hughes was allegedly using an online dating app to exchange nude pictures of himself with minors and to set up times to meet minors for sex.
The arrest comes as Hughes was conversing online with a 15-year-old boy. According to the report, Hughes had been speaking with the boy since February 2020. The acting U.S. attorney called the allegations, “chilling and frightening to any parent,” and evidence has emerged showing that Hughes tried to meet numerous underaged boys for sex over many months.
Official Court Filing Against Hughes
Court documents show that Hughes pretended to be a college professor and counselor when speaking to the 15-year-old boy and continued to make plans to meet in-person for sex. The court filing in the Southern District of New York also showed lewd and highly inappropriate text messages exchanged between Hughes and the young boy. Hughes admitted to police that he knew the boys he was speaking with online were underaged, according to the court filing.
Prosecutors also said that Hughes admitted to sexual encounters with another underaged boy at a Queens high school and other attempts to set up meetings with other underaged boys. In texts obtained by the police, Hughes urged these underaged boys to delete the texts to, “protect us.”
Father Hughes was a pastor at the St. Pancras Roman Catholic Church in Glendale, and a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said that Hughes has been formally removed as a pastor in the diocese since his arrest.
Hughes was released on a $50,000 bond. If convicted, he faces between five and twenty years in prison. As of August 2020, law enforcement was still looking for other young men who may have come in contact with Hughes and are urging anyone with information in this ongoing investigation to come forward.
Window Under New York Child Victims Act Extended
In August 2020, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo further extended the window of time that victims of childhood abuse have to file a claim. This is a victory for those who have been victims of sex abuse. People have until August 14, 2021 to come forward. Victims, like those harmed by Francis Hughes, now have further rights when it comes to pursuing justice against clergymen and other sex abuse offenders.
This is also significant because many states don’t have such laws on the books, so victims can’t come forward if the statute of limitations runs out. A statute of limitations is a set amount of time a victim of any crime has to report that crime. If someone comes forward past the date set by these statutes, the abuse survivor generally doesn’t have a valid legal claim. To learn if you have a viable claim, you should contact a licensed and experienced attorney.
As of August 2020, over 3,000 survivors of abuse have come forward in New York under the Child Victims Act. Lawmakers hope this new extension will allow even more people to come forward, share their stories, and receive the justice they deserve. No one should have to suffer in silence.
A report from August 2019 outlined how the Child Victims Act can help adults, even those now in their mid-fifties, get the justice they deserve. Other states have also enacted these types of laws. For example, in California, more than 1,000 lawsuits against the church were filed.
Advocates for these laws argue that it may take years, or even decades, for survivors of sex abuse to come forward and report their abuse.
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We Can Help
No child should ever become the victim of abuse. Too often, those who are in positions of power feel as though they can abuse children and young adults without repercussions. People in institutions of power, including churches or other ranks of clergy, may receive protection from those institutions. Despite this, no one is above the law.
A sex abuse claim can be emotionally draining, and coming forward may seem impossible. Our team of experienced attorneys want to help in any way we can. Call us for a free legal consultation today at (800) 614-2067. All consultations are completely confidential. We don’t get paid unless we secure a settlement or verdict of your behalf.