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Priest Faces New Claim

May 20, 2002 | Newsday

The owner of Scruffy Duffy's, a popular watering hole on the West Side of Manhattan, is adding his name to the list of those alleging they were sexually abused as children by the Rev. James Smith.

Patrick Hughes, 38, said he believed it was important for him - a successful businessman - to come forward and give credence and moral comfort to the 30 others who have made similar allegations against Smith.

Last month Bishop Thomas Daily announced that he removed Smith from his assignment as pastor of St. Kevin's Church in Flushing. A spokesman for Daily said Thursday that Smith still is at an undisclosed facility undergoing treatment for depression and could not be reached for comment.

Hughes said he is not a down-and-out "bottom feeder" looking to be part of a "big-bucks lawsuit."

"I'm just trying to state the facts," he said in an interview Thursday at Scruffy Duffy's, an Eighth Avenue grill and bar where patrons eat buffalo wings and burgers and watch sporting events on more than a dozen screens.

Hughes said that as an altar boy at Holy Trinity Elementary School in Whitestone in the 1970s, he frequently served at Mass with Smith.

"We used to have a 9 o'clock Mass in the chapel on the first floor, and it was these times, after the Mass was over and parishioners left, that Father Smith would have an opportunity," Hughes said of the alleged abuse.

"He would sneak up behind me and pull my black robe over me and get me in a bear hold and take my pants down and take his pants down," he said.

Smith - described by Hughes as a "big gregarious guy" who is "well over six feet tall" - would then rub his body against "my genitals," Hughes said.

Hughes said there were perhaps 50 such encounters over a span of three years, when Hughes was in the third through sixth grades. He said Smith occasionally took him on weekend fishing trips to Amityville, where Smith had a home and a boat, and molested him there.

The abuse stopped suddenly one day, Hughes said, when Smith accosted him on the steps of Holy Trinity, pointed to a pimple on the boy and said it was Hughes' "badness" coming out.

Hughes said Smith reached for him, "but I squirmed and wriggled out of it."

It was a moment of liberation, he said.

"I was starting to feel like a man ... I was not going for it," he added.

Hughes said the memories of the abuse receded into his memory in later years, when he attended St. Francis Prep High School, St. John's University and Florida International University.

Married for six years with two children, Hughes said he was enjoying his life as a husband, father, businessman and golfer when the past started creeping into his consciousness.

When Newsday published an article last month about Smith, along with a picture of the priest, "a sense of anxiety came over me," Hughes said. He became even more unsettled when the paper ran a story about Smith's Amityville home.

One day last month, Hughes said, he finally called up his mother in Whitestone and told her a secret he had kept from her, his two sisters, his best friend and even his wife.

"Her take was that she assumed he [Smith] was innocent because I'd never said anything to her," he said of his mother. "I told her, 'Everything they're saying about Father Smith is true, because I'm one of the victims.'

"She was speechless," Hughes said. "She cried."

Hughes' older sister Eileen, who manages the bar with him, said she too was shocked when her brother made the allegations against Smith, who was considered a family friend.

"It was the greatest shock of my life," she said. "I felt like I just ran into a wall."

Patrick Hughes said that, unlike other alleged victims of sexual abuse, he did not fall apart emotionally. "I've never abused drugs and I've never abused alcohol," he said.

As for any emotional hang-ups he may have, he said, "we all have problems. Who knows why I am the way I am?"

He said he stopped attending Mass long ago.

Hughes speculated that if word gets out that he was a victim of Smith, perhaps he will be called to testify in a case. Attorney Michael Dowd has said he has received calls about Smith from 30 alleged victims.

But "I don't need the big-bucks lawsuit," Hughes said. "It's really just for the other victims" that he is speaking out, he said.

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