Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who has for a decade advocated for an overhaul of the state’s statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse, said she turned down the unholy hush money from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in 2007.
“I’m not a billionaire, but I don’t need $5,000 to buy me off,” Markey told the Daily News.
The offer came across as a payoff, not a campaign donation, she added.
he Brooklyn Diocese called the allegation “patently false.”
“The bishop did not, would not and has never attempted to bribe an elected official or anyone else,” said Carolyn Erstad, a diocese spokeswoman. “This is a very serious allegation against a clergyman with an impeccable reputation. It is beyond comprehension that an elected official would not report an alleged crime of this kind to the proper authorities. She did not report it. It is not true. And it would be irresponsible for your paper to print it.”
Markey (D-Queens) said DiMarzio, who as head of the Brooklyn Diocese presides over 1.5 million Catholics, invited her into his chancery at the now-shuttered Bishop Ford High School on Prospect Park West in early 2007.
A nun was present when he offered the money, she recalled.
Markey’s spokesman Michael Armstrong said that DiMarzio suggested to Markey that the money would go toward therapy for one of her family members who had been sexually abused as a child.
After declining the offer, DiMarzio targeted her with robocalls as she ran for reelection against Republican challenger Anthony Nunziato in 2008, saying she did not have Catholic values, Markey said.
“I do have Catholic values — but my Catholic values don’t include raping children,” said Markey, who easily won reelection.
Instead of going silent, she wrote in the Daily News that year about her crusade, which now appears closer to success than ever.
“Lengthening or even eliminating statutes of limitation is a costless way for the states to do right by victims,” Markey wrote in April 2010.
Current state law prevents victims from suing their abuser after the victim’s 23rd birthday.
Markey says she saw no use in reporting the $5,000 offer to authorities at the time.
“Who could I report it to? He said, I said,” she explained Monday.
She first spoke publicly about the offer Sunday — but without naming DiMarzio — after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with 250 people supporting reform of the statute of limitations.
Markey said she decided to go public, saying she was overcome with emotion after crossing the bridge with the supporters.
“I’d call that shut up money,” advocate and abuse survivor Kathryn Robb said. “He tried to pay her to shut up, right? That speaks for itself.”
Even if authorities were to investigate Markey’s allegations, the statute of limitations on bribery charges would likely be a factor.
State bribery charges must be brought within three years of the alleged crime; federal charges must be brought within five years.
The offer isn’t the first time DiMarzio allegedly played hardball with politicians over Markey’s bill, which would make it easier for victims to sue and also grant a one-year window for those whose statute of limitations had expired to bring a civil lawsuit.
In 2008, DiMarzio reportedly threatened lawmakers who supported Markey’s Child Victims Act, telling them he would close parishes in their districts — and say they were to blame.
The diocese denied that threat was ever made.
The state’s Catholic Conference spent $2.1 million between 2007 and 2015 lobbying against efforts to reform the law, as well as other measures. Others, like yeshivas and private schools, have also opposed Markey’s bill.
The church supports other bills that would extend the statute of limitations, but that does not include the one-year lookback, Erstad said.
Meanwhile, Albany politicians continued negotiating over a vote on reform of the statute with just six days left in the legislative session, which is scheduled to end next week.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) said there were “productive” discussions taking place among leaders of the Senate and Assembly and Gov. Cuomo about reforming the statute of limitations.
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