NEW YORK — Former US Rep. Gary Ackerman is being called a sexual “predator” in a lawsuit accusing the New York Democrat of violating a teenager at a Boy Scout camp five decades ago.
The New York Post reported Saturday that the now 76-year-old Ackerman allegedly abused the 17-year-old while he was a director at the Ten Mile River Camp near upstate Narrowsburg, west of Poughkeepsie, according to papers filed in state Supreme Court.
In the lawsuit, the man said Ackerman — then 23 — drove him to a back road where he tried to fondle him before forcing oral sex.
The Boy Scouts should have been aware that Ackerman was a “known predator” with the potential to harm kids, according to court papers cited by the newspaper. The Boy Scouts told the Post they had no record of any allegations against him.
Attorney Oscar Michelen told the Post that the married father of three denies any wrongdoing, and to call him a “predator” is tantamount to slander.
Michelen did not respond Saturday to a message from The Associated Press requesting comment. Nor did Jordan Merson, the attorney for the alleged victim who told the Post that New York’s recently enacted Child Victims Act gave his now 70-year-old client the chance to come forward.
Whenever his client — who is not named — hears Ackerman’s name, “he goes immediately into PTSD symptoms, and anxiety,” Merson told the Post.
Ackerman, who is descended from Jewish Polish and Russian immigrants, served 29 years as a Democrat from Queens/Long Island. In 2012 he announced he was stepping down at a time that his reelection was reassured.
Known for a white carnation he wore since his days as a schoolteacher, Ackerman was close to the pro-Israel lobby during his time in Congress but willing to speak out when he saw Israel as missing chances for peace.
He was a leader in 2007 in seeking increased funding for the Palestinian Authority, but also inveighed against anti-Semitism in the Arab world and among Palestinians.
He was the most prominent stalwart of allies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to accept the endorsement of its dovish rival, J Street, in the 2010 election, but later broke with the group when it did not reject without qualification a proposed UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement building.
Ackerman made headlines in 2011 when he helped free Ilan Grapel, a US-Israeli citizen who was arrested in Cairo during the chaos following the Egyptian revolution of that year.
Hundreds of lawsuits over child sexual abuse allegations have been filed against a variety of institutions, including the Boy Scouts, since last week, when New York state opened a one-year window for lawsuits previously barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
Dozens of former pupils at Yeshiva University have also filed a lawsuit claiming administrators covered up sexual abuse by teachers and staff at the institute’s high school for boys.