Aretakis to join race for seat in Congress

A high-profile lawyer known for pursuit of clergy abuse cases plans to join the field of Democrats s

A high-profile lawyer known for pursuit of clergy abuse cases plans to join the field of Democrats seeking the 21st Congressional District seat of Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island.

John Aretakis, 47, of North Greenbush, will announce next week he will seek the seat, he said Monday in a news release.

Mark Lyman, a spokesman for Aretakis, said Aretakis wants to address the sexual abuse of children through legislation in Congress, as well as economic issues affecting New Yorkers.

Lyman is co-director of the Albany chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Lyman hired Aretakis in 2004 to represent him when he filed a lawsuit alleging that he was abused by a priest as a child.

“He wants to appeal to the average middle class family. Look at what is going in Washington, look at what is going in New York,” Lyman said. “People are tired and feel they don’t have good representation in Washington. John will bring a fresh new agenda and will work very hard representing people.”

Lyman said he and others have urged Aretakis to run for Congress: “John is a fighter and that is what people need right now.” Aretakis’ news release calls him a “battle-tested fighter and tireless advocate for the marginalized as well as the average person.”

Aretakis has filed 15 sexual abuse lawsuits since 2003 against the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese in an effort to seek damages for people who claim they were abused by priests. All were either dismissed or withdrawn, diocese officials said.

Aretakis said he’s settled 25 to 30 sexual abuse cases with the Catholic Church, which includes the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and he estimates he has collected $2.5 million in church-related settlements.

In 1996, Aretakis won almost $1 million in a clergy abuse case he filed against the Albany diocese, even though the statute of limitations had passed.

In September 2007, Aretakis was sanctioned by a federal court judge and ordered to pay more than $24,000 for filing a “baseless lawsuit” against a Catholic diocese and the U.S. government. The lawsuit alleged that the church broke its agreement to provide charitable housing to a woman who was forced out of her New Orleans apartment because of Hurricane Katrina.

Aretakis and his wife have a 9-year-old son.

He obtained a law degree from Albany Law School and a master’s degree in international law from Georgetown University Law School. He worked as a staff attorney for two years in Washington, D.C.

Aretakis would enter a race that includes six Democrats and two Republicans. The growing field will result in primaries for both parties this summer.

The other Democrats in the race are: Tracey Brooks, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton; Lester Freeman, the city of Albany’s equal employment opportunity officer; Gary Mittleman, former Plug Power CEO; Darius Shahinfar, an Albany attorney and former aide to Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand; Phil Steck, Colonie Democratic chairman; and Arthur Welser, a licensed broker with Real Property Enterprises in North Greenbush.

Two Republicans have declared their candidacies: James Buhrmaster, 62, is president of Buhrmaster Energy Group, a fourth-generation, locally owned and operated company based in Glenville, and a Schenectady County legislator; and Steven Vasquez, 33, of Ballston Lake, a self-described Tech Valley entrepreneur who started an electronics company called ReQuest.

McNulty will retire at the end of this term after 20 years in Congress.

Categories: Schenectady County


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