Judge Awards Sex Abuse Victim $1 Million
Police claim Fusco secretly videotaped the victim changing into a bathing suit when she was 18 and also taped another family member and her friend when they were around 12 and 13 years old. Fusco pleaded guilty to the charges last year and was sentenced to 15 years behind bars, suspended after eight years. After he is released, he will be on probation for 20 years,
The civil case proceeded to a bench trial last month before Judge Terence Zemetis in Waterbury Superior Court. Evidence presentation lasted one day. The victim testified.
Fusco's lawyer, Martin Minnella, of Minnella, Tramuta & Edwards in Middlebury, attempted to limit damages. During cross-examination, the victim acknowledged she isn't currently taking any medications or seeking any psychiatric care.
Minnella told the Law Tribune that the victim has had "no residual problems or effects from [the abuse]. She's not seeking any additional help for any problems. She's in a normal relationship. She's received a number of academic awards since the incident."
Minnella calculated her medical bills at $5,100.
Judge Zemetis ultimately decided to award roughly $1 million in damages. "It's a verdict that I don't think will ever be collected," said Minnella. The defense lawyer noted that his client is in prison, has no income and that the plaintiff has "a $350,000 attachment on a residence with no equity."
Sack acknowledged that the $1 million verdict will be difficult to collect. "We have a prejudgment remedy against his home, which remains in his name," said Sack. "He's unemployed. A return to his teaching career is unlikely. But on the other hand, he's relatively young, and will be out of prison in his early 40s. So we're hoping over time he'll have a means to settle out the judgment."
Sack said Fusco is going through a bankruptcy. "He's in bankruptcy but our position is this is not a dischargeable debt," said Sack. "It is my understanding from working with bankruptcy lawyers on this case that it's not dischargeable."
Sack acknowledged that damages can be difficult to recover in civil sexual abuse cases. "They're tough cases in terms of making it a good business model for a lawyer unless there is a defendant with a means to pay," said Sack.
Sack said it is better for plaintiffs when there is a business, school district or religious organization that can be sued in a sexual abuse case, such as for negligent supervision. Insurance isn't going to cover a sexual abuse claim against an individual like Fusco, Sack said.