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Despite substantiated claim, retired Buffalo priest won't be charged for abusing minor in the '80s

2 On Your Side spoke with Erie County District Attorney John Flynn about why that is.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Diocese of Buffalo's Independent Review Board conducted an investigation into a retired priest and found the allegation he abused a minor is true. 

However, The Rev. Joseph Vatter will not be facing any criminal charges. 

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says the alleged abuse happened back in the early 1980s. However, he says the statute of limitations in this incident was only three years, so no charges can be filed. 

Flynn says Vatter allegedly forcibly touched a girl in her early teens at a Catholic school. He says there was no rape or serious felony misconduct. 

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Flynn adds if the statute of limitations wasn't an issue in this case, it would be a misdemeanor.

To this day, Flynn says forcibly touching someone has a three-year statute of limitations on it, unless the victim is under 18. Otherwise, once they turn 18, the limitations period begins. 

Flynn says he can't prosecute most of these cases involving sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo because they fall outside of that statute of limitations.

"If I could, I would. But the statute of limitations precludes me and again, we have another case here now where again we have a substantiated claim even though I haven't really drilled down on it to see if it rises to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, I haven't even gotten that far yet because I don't need to. I know I can't go anywhere due to the statute of limitations," Flynn said. 

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Vatter has accepted the recommendation from the independent review board.

As a result, he was placed on administrative leave in February and no longer helps with masses at churches throughout Western New York. 

Vatter will also be named on the 'Priests with Substantiated Claims of Abuse' list on the diocese's website. 

If you have any information about sexual abuse within the Diocese of Buffalo, you can contact a victim assistance coordinator for help. Her number is 716-895-3010.


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