Attorney defends former Queens Congressman Ackerman against 50-year-old sex abuse suit

Ackerman spends more than he raises in last cycle
Photo by Christina Santucci

After a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court alleged that former Queens Congressman Gary Ackerman engaged in sexual misconduct as a camp director with a 17-year-old boy more than 50 years ago, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Ackerman’s attorney are crying foul.

Oscar Michelen, who is representing the well-known politician, said the John Doe complaint was based on false claims and that the plaintiff may only be looking to profit off a class action lawsuit with BSA pertaining to the surfacing of sexual misconduct within the organization.

Further, the BSA said they have no record of any complaint about Ackerman prior to the suit filed on Aug. 16. which claims Ackerman was “known predator” whom the Boy Scouts “should have known” about, according to the civil complaint.

“This suit was the first time that the congressman had ever heard of these allegations and no complaint had ever been made to the Boy Scout or camp. In his three decade career of exemplary service, there’s never been any allegation of this kind, not just this incident but any other incident in the 15 times he ran for congress,” Michelen said.

He strongly denied the section of the complaint which claimed that Ackerman had a history of misconduct, claiming that the BSA has good documentation of known incidents — and a query of anything involving Ackerman came back with no results.

“That allegation is made up, because had there been prior allegations the Boy Scouts would have found them,” Michelen said. “I think that’s a question for the plaintiff’s attorney. I think they’re going to say, ‘it’s [based] on opinion and belief’ – legal speak.”

BSA confirmed to QNS in a statement that there are no records to uphold the allegation that Ackerman was ever known as a predator. The organization is currently dealing with an onslaught of sexual abuse claims that are surfacing after the Child Victims Act was passed on Aug. 14.

“(BSA) has no record of any allegation of abuse against Mr. Ackerman in our Volunteer Screening Database, a system established in the 1920s to bar individuals from Scouting who should not work with youth. Had the National Organization been made aware of credible allegations against Mr. Ackerman, we would have acted to remove him from Scouting,” the BSA said. “We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims. We support them. We pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.”

Jordan Merson, the attorney representing the anonymous plaintiff, did not return a request for comment before our deadline.

The complaint claims that the 1966 incident occurred at Ten Miles River Scout Camp in Sullivan County. Ackerman was 23 at the time, and wouldn’t be elected to public office for another decade. According to the complaint, Ackerman allegedly locked the John Doe in his car and forcibly fondled and performed oral sex on the victim without consent.

Emotional scarring the plaintiff received has caused the him to seek medical attentions and economic loss for which they requesting compensation, the complaint noted.

Ackerman served in the district now represented by Congresswoman Grace Meng centered in Flushing. But in Ackerman’s time, the district covered much of northeast Queens and Long Island where Ackerman still carries out a public life at the age of 76.

Though the suit has yet to hit a courtroom, it may already have implications for Ackerman in Suffolk County political spheres.

According to the Long Island Press, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy called on Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to terminate a $24,999 contract awarded to Ackerman. A copy of the contract obtained by QNS says Ackerman was awarded the funds through the state Department of Civil Service and was set to run between March 2019 and February 2020.

Ackerman was contracted as a civil services consultant.

The contract indicated by the comptroller’s office strikes just below the $25,000 threshold that would require the deal to go through a public vetting process such as an Request for Proposal.

As the Long Island Press noted, Kennedy, a Republican, is mounting a general election challenge to Bellone in November.

The bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo allows victims to take up claims against individuals and institutions that harbored them regardless of the previous statute of limitations.