A third lawsuit has now been filed against the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead by a former resident claiming that the ranch allowed him to be physically and sexually abused by older boys as a result of poor supervision.
John Gubitosi filed the latest lawsuit against the ranch on Thursday, Nov. 14.
Similar lawsuits have been filed on Nov. 6 by John Joseph Barci and on Sept. 20 by Andres Alexander Ramos.
All three lawsuits are being brought by the same law firm, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz of Manhattan, and all three are filed under New York State’s Child Victims Act, according to Regina Calcaterra, the lead attorney on the three cases.
The latest lawsuit is posted on the law firm’s website, and a press release was also posted online.
“The allegations of each complaint sets forth an environment of limited to no supervisor, which allows the older residents to sexually, physically and emotionally abuse (Mr. Ramos, Mr. Barci and Mr. Gubitosi),” the release says.
It claims that the ranch knew about the abuse and launched “an orchestrated effort to distort the truth and cover up brutal sexual attacks.”
The ranch was founded in 1976 by Fern and Jerrell Hill and began operation in 1980 with the objective of using “Christ-centered values” to help reform “dependent, neglected and abused” boys.
Mr. Gubitosi lived at the ranch from October to December 1994, when he was 15. The house he lived at on the ranch was the same one where Mr. Ramos lived from January to June 1995, when he was 12.
Mr. Gubitosi’s lawsuit says that on his first night at the ranch, several other residents held a blanket over his face and body while laughing and beating him with heavy objects.
When he reported it to a house parent employed by the ranch, he was told “Oh, that was a blanket party. Man up. Go back to bed. I’ll handle it.”
In all three cases, the lawsuits are being filed now, years after the alleged events happened, because the CVA, which was approved in February to permit the revival of child sexual abuse cases that were previously barred by statutes of limitations.
Under the CVA, child sex abuse victims have a one-year window of time, from August 2019 through August 2020, to pursue civil cases against people alleged to have committed child sexual abuse in the past.
The lawsuit says that during the two months Mr. Gubitosi lived on the ranch, “he was repeatedly and viciously victimized by the teenage residents of the ranch. The abuse was enabled by (the ranch’s) negligence and allowed to continue because of their callous apathy to (Mr. Gubitosi’s) reports and cries for help.”
The lawsuit says that the ranch’s “de facto policy of virtually no supervision after ‘lights out’ made it so that (Mr. Gubitosi) was repeated beaten by other teenage boys in his residence.” It said the ranch’s “inadequate supervision meant that, despite multiple staff members residing under the very same roof, these regular beatings escalated to sexual abuse at the hands of the older residents.”
Mr. Gubitosi reported the physical and sexual abuse to ranch employees but was forced to do so in front of other residents whom he had accused of assaulting him, according to the lawsuit. After several attempts to run away from the ranch, Mr. Gubitosi went to his grandmother’s house and refused to return to the ranch, the lawsuit said.
The ranch, at the time in 1994, was in the midst of $750,000 fundraising campaign “and knew that if (Mr. Gubitosi’s assaults were publicized, this would negatively affect their fundraising attempts,” the suit claims.
Mr. Barci’s lawsuit is similar to those filed by Mr. Ramos and Mr. Gubitosi, although Mr. Barci lived at the Ranch in 1981 when he was 12.
Mr. Barci alleges that he was placed in a house with older, larger residents who routinely beat him and sexually assaulted him while at the ranch.
One case cited in Mr. Barci’s lawsuit alleges that a 17-year-old resident locked him in a barn with a horse and threw rocks at the horse in an attempt to get it to kick out in anger.
The lawsuit says Mr. Barci detailed instances of sexual abuse by the 17-year-old to the house parents, who ignored and dismissed them, saying that he had been “dreaming,” and calling him a liar.
The ranch’s “negligence and inadequate supervision created a culture of lawlessness, resulting in [Mr. Barci] being physically, emotionally and sexually abused by the older residents at the ranch,” Mr. Barci’s lawsuit says.
John Denby, the attorney for Timothy Hill’s Children Ranch on the Barci case, said they feel “the case is very defensible.”
“It’s based on unfounded allegations from many, many years ago,” he said.
Mr. Denby, who also represented the ranch on the Ramos case, said Friday that he is “probably” going to represent them on the Gubitosi case, but that he has not read the lawsuit yet. He said he recommended that the ranch send calls for comment to him, but that the lawsuit was only filed a day earlier.
The lawsuits do not specify what types of damages are being sought by the three men. In addition to the ranch, a number of former employees also are named as defendants.