EXCLUSIVE: Catholic Church spent $2M on major N.Y. lobbying firms to block child-sex law reform!

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ALBANY — Not leaving it to divine chance, the state Catholic Conference has turned in recent years to some of Albany’s most well-connected and influential lobby firms to help block a bill that would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to seek justice.

The Catholic Conference, headed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has used Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch & Associates, Hank Sheinkopf, and Mark Behan Communications to lobby against the Child Victims Act as well as for or against other measures.

All told, the conference spent more than $2.1 million on lobbying from 2007 through the end of 2015, state records show. That does not include the conference’s own internal lobbying team.

Filings show the lobbyists were retained, in part, to work on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.” Other issues included parochial school funding and investment tax credits.

“They are willing to spend limitless money in order to basically keep bad guys from being accountable for their actions,” said Melanie Blow, chief operations officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign. “I think they’re doing it because they don’t want to have to pay out settlements.”

Added Kathryn Robb, an advocate and survivor who says she was abused by her brother as a 9-year-old: “If they need to spend that much money on lobbying, clearly, then, they have some pretty big secrets to hide.”

While a far cry from the millions in lobbying top special interests spend in Albany each year, advocates for child sex abuse survivors say the $2.1 million spent likely represents a worthwhile investment to the Catholic Conference if it can continue to block legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse civil cases and open a one-year window to bring lawsuits for victims who can no longer sue under current law.

The Catholic Conference has argued that opening a one-year window to revive old cases could ultimately bankrupt the Church.

The firms the Catholic Conference chose is also telling.

Wilson Elser has long been Albany’s biggest lobbying firm. The firm represented the Catholic Conference from at least 2007 through the end of 2015 and was paid more than $1 million during that time, according to online filings with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

After several key people either left the firm or reduced their responsibilities, the Church did not renew the contract with Wilson Elser for 2016, sources said.

Wilson Elser, which was being paid $10,000 a month by the Catholic Conference, had no comment.

In its place, state records show, the Catholic Conference hired another prominent firm, Greenberg Traurig, which it is paying $6,000-a-month. The lobbyist from the firm representing the Church is Michael Murphy, who used to be an assistant counsel for the Senate Republicans.

The Senate GOP opposes the one-year “lookback” window that Democrats are calling for.

The Catholic Church, some Orthodox Jewish groups, and other private entities oppose legislation by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) that would eliminate the time limit that prohibits adults who were victimized as children from bringing civil cases after their 23rd birthdays.

Another top firm, Patricia Lynch & Associates, whose namesake had close ties to now disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was hired by the Catholic Conference in 2009. Lynch’s firm for many years was ranked in the top 3 of well-paid lobbyists.

Lynch’s hiring by the Catholic Conference came after the Assembly passed different versions of the Child Victims Act four times from 2006 to 2008. The measure never came up again for a vote after Lynch was hired.

ISVEKI2I64F4PEPZ62W7X62HQQKathryn Robb, who was abused as a child, said the Catholic Conference is hiding something if it has to spend big money on lobby firms. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

“Once Ms. Lynch lobbied for the Catholic Conference, Mr. Silver’s support for our bill ended, and the bill did not come out of the Assembly’s Codes Committee … which as speaker, he controlled,” John Aretakis, a former lawyer and an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, wrote in a scathing letter recently to a judge handling Silver’s recent criminal sentencing.

State lobbying records show the firm’s contract with the Catholic Conference was terminated earlier this year, not long after Lynch was outed in court papers as having had an affair with Silver.

Silver was sentenced earlier this month to 12 years in prison after his conviction on federal corruption charges.

Lynch, whose firm was being paid $7,500-a-month, would only say her contract with the Catholic Conference was ended by “mutual consent.”

Sheinkopf, meanwhile, has had close ties with Gov. Cuomo, the former leadership of the Senate Democrats when they were in control of the chamber, and even the Senate Republicans.

Like the others who were hired by the Catholic Conference, he would not discuss the specifics about what he does for the $5,000-a-month he is being paid.

“They like me,” he said. “They think I’m smart.”

In an email, Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust wouldn’t comment directly on his organization’s lobbying efforts. He also would not comment on the reasoning behind why specific lobbying firms were chosen.

“The Catholic Conference lobbies on many issues, from assisted suicide to farm worker rights to school choice to criminal justice reform,” Poust said.

He said the conference’s lobbying activity is in full compliance with the law and is reported, as required, to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

“As such it is all a matter of public record,” Poust said. “We have no further comment beyond that.”

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Sorry! Gang Leader ‘Apologized’ After Slain Teen May Have Been A Victim Of Mistaken Identity

• WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

• Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, was butchered in a frenzied attack on Wednesday

• Video shows him being dragged from a bodega and slashed with a machete

• Now cops fear he could have been a victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity

• Could have been confused for a man in a sex video involving attackers’ relative

• Victim’s family members have gotten apologies from on Facebook from gang

By Snejana Farberov For Dailymail.com

The 15-year-old who was dragged out of a Bronx bodega and brutally slashed to death with a machete may have been the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity involving a sex video, according to cops – and now gang leaders are apologizing via social media.

Investigators believe Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, could have been mistaken for a man in an online sex tape with a relative of one of the attackers before he was butchered outside the Zesarina Grocery at 11.40pm on Wednesday.

It came as his mother, Leandra Feliz, 48, described her son as a ‘sweet’ kid with no connections to gangs who had enrolled on an NYPD program to become a police officer.

‘His dream in the future was to be a detective,’ she told the New York Post. ‘Since he was five years old, he told me, “Mommy, I want to be a police”.’

Harrowing video: Surveillance video shows a group of suspects dragging Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, out of a bodega in The Bronx on Wednesday night. Cops now say he could have been the victim of mistaken identity

Frenzied attack: The men pulled out knives and machetes and proceeded to stab and slash the teenager

Brutal: The men are seen in the footage repeatedly knifing Guzman-Feliz on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store

Cry for help: After the attackers fled, the mortally wounded by got up, with blood pouring from a wound on his neck

Guzman-Feliz tried to run to a hospital, but collapsed a block away. A woman tried to stop the bleeding from his neck, but he died on the sidewalk

The victim’s brother in law Derek Grullon, 19, told the New York Daily News that ,’ received messages on Facebook from men claiming to be part of Trinitarios, a Dominican gang known for violence.

‘They said, ‘We had the wrong person”,’ according to Grullon, who said his wife – the victim’s sister – received similar messages.

She got a two-minute video mea culpa via Snapchat, he told the NY Post, in which the gang leader ‘said they kicked all of them out of the gang.’

Upon getting the message, ‘We cried’, Grullon told the Post. ‘He was innocent.’

According to the News, the sex tape that started the fracas showed one man rapping while another had sex with a woman whose face was covered in a shirt. It’s not clear which of the two men Guzman-Feliz may have been mistaken for.

The 15-year-old attended high school and dreamed of becoming a police detective one day

CCTV video posted by Facebook user Riichy Rich on Friday shows the pack of men forcibly dragging Guzman-Feliz by the hood of his jacket out of the bodega and frantically stabbing and slashing him with a machete before fleeing on foot.

After a few seconds, Guzman-Feliz is seen standing on the street corner with blood pouring from a wound in his neck.

He then runs across the street, heading towards the nearby St Barnabas Hospital.

According to police, the mortally wounded boy never reached the hospital and collapsed a block away.

Another extremely graphic video posted on social media by a different user shows Guzman-Feliz drenched in blood from head to toe, sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the wall.

A woman tries to apply pressure to his neck before police officers and paramedics surround him. Guzman-Feliz succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Officers said with his dying breath, the 15-year-old asked for some water, according to ABC 7 New York.

Investigators said he had told his mother he was going to the bodega a block away from his house to either repay a debt or lend $5 to a friend. He never made it home that night.

The victim’s sister, Genesis Collado-Feliz, 17, said her younger brother loved playing video games and would come to her for advice about girls. She said Lesandro had recently become friends with a group of older boys, but she insisted he was not in a gang.

‘He tried to run into the store because he thought he’d be safe. They dragged him from the store like a dog,’ Collado-Feliz told the New York Post. ‘They were grown men, and he was only 15.’

Guzman-Feliz was a student at the Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School. News 12 The Bronx reported that he had aspired to become a police detective.

Police are searching for at least six suspects in connection to the vicious killing. They were last seen driving away in a white sedan and a dark sedan.

The suspects were last seen driving away in a white sedan and a dark sedan (pictured)