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Alleged actions of Vincent Festa at center of Herricks School District sex abuse trial

Alleged actions of Vincent Festa at center of Herricks School District sex abuse trial
Alleged actions of Vincent Festa at center of Herricks School District sex abuse trial 02:21

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- A Nassau County jury began hearing evidence Monday against the Herricks School District, which is accused of ignoring sex abuse complaints about a high school psychologist back in the 1980s.

It's one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed by alleged victims, who say they were abused by the man they went to for help.

Disturbing old memories from four decades were stirred in the courthouse. Back then, students at Herricks High School complained their school psychologist, Vincent Festa, was sexually abusing them.

Festa died in 2011, but actions of the school district are now before a jury.

"The behavior by Herricks administration in the 1980s was reckless and it's reckless today," said Jeff Herman, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

Herman told jurors that boys in the early '80s reported the abuse to the principal, adding staff and parents made complaints as well.

"Mr. Festa stays at the school. What changes is they start referring to Mr. Festa as 'Festa the molesta,'" Herman said. "They start chanting 'Festa the molesta can't be here another semester.'"

Festa was never investigated.

The plaintiff, who asked that his name not be shared, claims at 14 years old he was molested dozens of times by Festa at school, a life-altering trauma. He is seeking $10 million in damages.

Sixteen former students, now grown men, have brought cases against the district under the New York Child Victims Act.

"Now is the time of reckoning where those organizations, institutions are being held accountable for those molesters and individuals within their organization that were targeting children and it was known," said Laura Ahern of the Crime Victims Center.

Attorneys for school district questioned the credibility and motives of the plaintiff and told the jury times were different.

"In the 1980s, without awareness of molestation and pedophilia, this came across as a rhyming nickname, a joke," attorney Jessica Palmase said.

Jurors were told the alleged victim brought the case because he has struggled his entire life and he is haunted by the question of why his school district allowed this to happen.

In the 1990s, Festa pled guilty to child sex abuse of boys in his Ronkonkoma neighborhood, none of them Herricks students, and served no time in jail.

To read a statement from Herricks Public Schools, please click here

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