NY Suit Alleges Sodomy Hazing Induction In Fire Department

A bizarre story is emerging from Piermont, New York where a father is alleging that his son was sodomized as part of a ritualized hazing of new members in a volunteer fire department.

Mark Bernstein has filed suit against the Village of Piermont and three named firefighters in Federal Court. The suit alleges that the village knew about the ritualized hazing and “took no steps to prevent this rite of passage and as such acquiesced in its implementation.”

The assault allegedly took place in August of 2010 when the youth was 16 years old. The suit seeks damages for battery, the tort of “outrage”, and a Constitutional due process violation in so far as the village was “deliberately indifferent” to the practice.

The complaint reads as follows:

“Fifth: That upon information and belief, sometime prior to Aug. 14, 2010, and on occasions too numerous to mention, the defendant the Village of Piermont promulgated, fostered and implemented a policy whereby new arrivals (‘initiates’) into the position of volunteer firefighter would be subject to a form of ‘hazing’ whereby fellow firefighters would restrain the initiate’s movements, depriving him of his freedom of movement, expose their genitals to the said initiate, and attempt to forcibly cause the initiate to place his hand upon and/or fondle the genitals of various members of the Piermont Fire Department, and/or force the said initiate against his will by dint of duress to sodomize an existing firefighter.

“Sixth: That upon information and belief, the aforementioned exercise of what the defendant The Village of Piermont deemed to be ‘hazing’ was done to each and every named individual defendant herein and further deemed to be a ritual utilized as a ‘rite of passage,’ a prerequisite in acceptance into the Village of Piermont Fire Department”.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

BernsteinComplaint_Redacted

The suit was filed May 31, 2011 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Incidentally the tort of outrage is also referred to as intentional infliction of severe emotional distress.

Three named individuals are facing charges of endangering the welfare of a minor and sexual harassment.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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