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St. Francis Prep alums detail decades of alleged sexual abuse at prestigious Queens school after Child Victims Act opens doors for lawsuits


For the first time in 42 years, a retired city firefighter long devastated by his prestigious Catholic prep school principal’s alleged sexual abuse feels something other than despair.

It’s hope.

The former FDNY first responder, one of six St. Francis Preparatory School alumni to file August court papers under the Child Victims Act, is suddenly optimistic that a life of endless shame and horrific flashbacks can somehow get better.

“Maybe this is God’s way of saying, ‘You know, the universe is going to give you a little something back,’" said the 60-year-old man, identified only as John Doe in legal filings, to the Daily News. “I cannot believe this law has passed. I cannot believe we are having this conversation.

"Thank God almighty this happened.”

Though their stories are different in the details, their tales told by the St. Francis plaintiffs share the same sad ending: Decades of emotional, physical and psychological damage, legal documents allege.

Court papers recount their victimization by predatory staffers targeting teen students of both sexes. The abuse occurred on overnight hockey team trips, in school classrooms, inside the library and a makeshift locker room.

The paperwork details abuse dating to 1969, when a high school football coach allegedly targeted a 14-year-old athlete in the shower. The most recent case alleged that a student was molested on multiple occasions by a Christian brother in 2003-04, with the incidents occurring in classrooms and the assailant’s private office.

“It’s so disturbing,” said attorney David Oddo, who represents the half-dozen anonymous victims.

A female student, in allegations affirmed by a city investigation, was just age 15 when she was raped by teacher Rodney Alejandro — who twice impregnated the teen, then insisted on abortions both times. The incidents began in 1987, and continued into 1989, according to her Queens Supreme Court filing.

The woman still suffers depression, panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks, according to court papers. The 2015 probe by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools noted that Alejandro resigned from his St. Francis post “and left the school in good standing.” He was placed on leave last year from a Georgia school after administrators learned of his sordid past.

A phone call for comment from Alejandro was not returned.

“There’s been a cover-up since the 1960s,” said the former firefighter, who claimed that he was drugged and raped by the school principal in 1977. “They need to have their feet held to the fire. They’ve been thumbing their nose at everybody for the last 40 years.”

The history of St. Francis dates to 1858, when two Christian Brothers from Ireland first opened the doors of what became the largest private Catholic secondary school in the United States. Famous alumni include football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, former Yankees manager Joe Torre, television host Julie Chen and whistle-blowing NYPD officer Frank Serpico.

“We are not commenting on pending litigation,” said Philip Semprevivo Jr., attorney for the school. “We are investigating and will respond appropriately down the line in court.”

The victims each filed their legal paperwork after the CVA’s one-year “lookback” period for civil suits launched Aug. 14. The total number of New York victims filing claims statewide in the first two weeks now stands at 787, according to state officials.

“These survivors have been waiting years, and in some cases several decades to pursue justice for themselves," said Elizabeth Sorvillo, a former St. Francis teacher who launched a 2011 website to expose abuse allegations at the school. "I hope they feel vindication now that something that has resided in the dark for so long is finally coming into the light.”

Attorney Oddo says the long-awaited day in court won’t provide a cure-all for clients still suffering from crippling after-effects.

“It’s just a temporary respite,” said Oddo. “This is something you are never going to shake. You can never forget the ramifications or the consequences of being sexually abused as a child. It doesn’t magically go away because of a court case.”

The FDNY retiree, now living in Alabama, said the same was true of any financial settlement — regardless of the amount.

“What I want so badly for myself and the other victims is some compassion,” he said. “They can never compensate me for the mental health treatment, the drug and alcoholism treatment ... The shame. The chronic, underlying sense of unworthiness, as (psychiatrist) Carl Jung put it."