Could Federal Grand Jury Subpoena Signal RICO Investigation for Catholic Diocese of Buffalo?

Attorney Barry N. Covert was interviewed by WKBW’s I-Team Chief Investigator Charlie Specht for a story that 7 Eyewitness News introduced as a “big development in the clergy sex abuse crisis”.

The 7 Eyewitness News story addresses an article recently published in The Buffalo News, which reported that subpoenas were issued in March 2019 as part of an investigation involving clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo.

In this interview with WKBW, Barry Covert provides insight and analysis regarding: why the latest subpoenas carry unique significance; what the subpoenas reveal about laws that federal prosecutors may be using in this investigation; and where the focus of the investigation may be directed.

Continue reading for details on Barry Covert’s comments or click in the video below to watch 7 Eyewitness News’ full story.  You will also find the full story on WKBW’s website.

Subpoena Reveals Federal Grand Jury Investigation

7 Eyewitness News states that the March 2019 subpoenas reported by The Buffalo News are the third round of subpoenas issued to the Diocese of Buffalo.  Attorney Barry Covert pointed out to WKBW’s Charlie Specht that the latest subpoenas differ from the first two rounds issued by federal prosecutors. This latest round of subpoenas provide the first confirmation of a federal grand jury investigation.

Covert stated “It’s very significant because that means they have taken this investigation to the next level. Now we know that there is a federal grand jury that is specifically tasked with looking at these claims, these allegations”

RICO Law

7 Eyewitness News’ story also addresses the potential that federal prosecutors may be looking to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to investigate cover-up of sexual abuse in Buffalo and other catholic diocese. The RICO Act was passed by Congress in 1970 and the law is used to prosecute patterns of offenses committed by members of an “enterprise”.

Barry Covert stated “We think that they could be looking at RICO.”  Discussing the potential use of the RICO Law in this investigation, Covert continued by saying “The obstruction of justice, which is a predict act. Moving priests around. Did they destroy any records?  Did they withhold any records?  Were there any incorrect, untruthful communications to law enforcement?  And fraud is also a predicate act.”

Focus of Federal Investigation on Clergy Sex Abuse

7 Eyewitness News reports that many of the cases that involve sexual abuse perpetrated by priests from the Diocese of Buffalo are too old to be prosecuted criminally.  However, the story continues by stating that a racketeering investigation could focus on a wider conspiracy involving church higher-ups involved in concealing the abuse.

With respect to this point, Barry Covert was quoted as stating “It looks like in Pennsylvania and in Buffalo – the U.S. Attorney’s office – that they are looking at a more vast investigation that involves the diocese as well, and they administration within the diocese.

While this latest news is a significant development, it is not entirely clear what will be next for this investigation.  Towards the conclusion of 7 Eyewitness News’ report, Covert concluded “It’s nerve-wracking to be the subject of a federal investigation. It can be suffocating.”

More Information

Barry Covert is an experienced trial attorney who represents over 40 survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  If you would like any additional information regarding Catholic Church sex abuse or for a free confidential case review, click here to contact Barry Covert via e-mail or call 716-849-1333, ext. 365.