Jury finds N.J. city, FD negligent when firefighter repeatedly sexually assaulted boy
The abuse happened in at least two Perth Amboy firehouses
By Chris Sheldon
PERTH AMBOY, N.J. — A jury on Tuesday found Perth Amboy and its fire department negligent in its supervision and training during the time period in which a now 44-year-old man was sexually abused by a former city firefighter, authorities said.
In 2019, the firefighter, Hugo Fleites, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the boy — who was 12 years old when the abuse began in 1998 — and two other victims and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to a statement from the man’s attorney Jay Mascolo.
Fleites was close friends with the boy’s family and molested him countless times, including being abused over 30 times in at least two former Perth Amboy firehouses, the victim testified.
He filed a lawsuit against the city on May 13, 2020. The case was litigated for over two years and proceeded to a two-week jury trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse that ended Tuesday.
In addition to finding the city negligent, the jury awarded $331,000 for the abuse that occurred in the firehouses, Mascolo said. The total amount will be increased to $450,000 under an agreement in place between the parties prior to the verdict.
“We are pleased that the jury found this public entity responsible for a lack of supervision and training that contributed to this horrible story,” Mascolo said in a statement. “Hopefully this verdict reinforces the concept to any organization that it must properly supervise all employees and facilities and train its employees as to risks and signs of child sexual abuse.”
Mascolo said the ruling was among the first of its kind since New Jersey extended its civil statute of limitations as it relates to victims of sexual abuse.
In 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy permanently expanded New Jersey’s civil statute of limitations for sexual assault. Prior to this, survivors of sexual assault had a timeframe of two years to pursue civil litigation, or, for survivors of sexual abuse during their childhood, two years after age 18.
Under the expansion, all victims of sexual assault have seven years to pursue civil action. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until age 55 or seven years from the time that they became aware of the trauma to come forward and file a civil suit against a responsible entity.
City and fire department officials did not respond to requests for comment.
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