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Priest brother of late Genovese crime family boss accused in sex abuse lawsuit

Larry McShane, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — Retired Bronx priest Louis Gigante, the brother of late mob boss Vincent and a former City Council member, was accused of molesting a Bible study student in his parish during the 1970s, according to court documents.

The 13-page Bronx Supreme Court filing alleges the high-profile Gigante assaulted the 9-year-old boy back in 1976-77, and seeks unspecified damages from the Archdiocese of New York and his old home base of St. Athanasius Church.

“Plaintiff was forced to endure prolific and profound abuse at St. Athanasius Church by Father Gigante,” charged the court papers filed this past May. “Plaintiff would attend Bible study at the church with Father Gigante and (he) would find ways to get plaintiff alone ... and repeatedly performed oral sex on him.”

Louis Gigante, the youngest of the five brothers raised in Greenwich Village by Italian immigrant parents, stood by his older sibling Vincent when the Mafia chief was accused and eventually convicted as boss of the powerful Genovese crime family.

Vincent Gigante, known as “Chin,” died in prison in 2005 after avoiding prosecution for decades with his “crazy act” — feigning mental illness to frustrate federal investigators. The brothers were often seen together in the Village, where Vincent wandered the streets in a ratty bathrobe as part of his law enforcement dodge.

The complaint described the risk of sexual abuse to the anonymous plaintiff as “open and obvious and known by many students, children, clergy and administration, yet the defendants failed to take any action to stop and/or prevent the abuse from occurring.”

In addition, the court papers alleged, “the archdiocese knew or should have known that Father Gigante was sexually abusing children and/or had the propensity to do so. The defendants ... knew or should have known of the abuse that (plaintiff) and other young children were suffering at the hands of their clergy.”

Louis Gigante, a college basketball star at Georgetown, eventually landed in 1962 at the Bronx parish where his congregation once included future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He became deeply involved in developing the South Bronx and in politics, serving two terms on the City Council before a failed run for Congress in 1980.


His Southeast Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO) rehabilitated or built several thousands housing units in the needy neighborhood. A statue honoring the activist priest was erected in the area, and he was honored in 2017 for his rebuilding efforts in the South Bronx.

Attempts to reach Gigante for comment were unsuccessful.

“The Archdiocese of New York takes all allegations of sexual abuse of minors seriously, and responds with sensitivity and respect,” said spokesman Joe Zwilling. “However, we cannot comment on individual lawsuits brought under the Child Victims Act.

The accuser’s lawyer noted the deadline for filing such abuse suits arrives next month.

“The Child Victim’s Act has been a true blessing to survivors,” said attorney Antigone Curis. “Time is of the essence to get the justice that these survivors deserve as the deadline is quickly approaching on August 14, 2021.”


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