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Police Athletic League Sued Over Alleged 1970s Abuse

Paul Steinbach

Victims of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by a martial arts instructor are taking legal action more than 40 years after their participation in a Brooklyn, N.Y., Police Athletic League's programming.

As reported by Bklyner.com, the PAL serving Canarsie, a residential neighborhood of Brooklyn, has been sued three separate times this month over sexual abuse allegedly committed by the instructor in the 1970s.

According to the lawsuit filed by Minnesota attorney Patrick Noaker and Manhattan attorney Matthew Lombardi, Tae Kwon Do instructor Ronald Schwartz abused the then-teenagers by groped both male and female students, masturbating in front of them, and performing oral sex on them while they were under his tutelage. The PAL failed to intervene despite clear warning signs, the lawsuit alleges.

Noaker anticipated filing lawsuits this week on behalf of two additional clients, but believes that there are likely dozens of victims.

“What happened here should never have occurred,” Noaker told Bklyner. “There were children being sexually assaulted by this martial arts instructor. He used principles like honor, courage and obedience, and basically had these kids believing it. And he used it to sexually abuse them. If the PAL had any presence, they would have stopped it.”

According to Bklyner, the suit is being filed in Manhattan Supreme Court under the 2019 Child Victims Act statute, which allows victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. The “look back window” to file cases regardless of when they occurred was set to expire in August of last year, but has been extended to August 2021.

The alleged abuse took place in class, at Schwartz's home, on camping trips and even at students’ homes.

Schwartz, who also taught physical education in Brooklyn public schools, was convicted of unrelated child sex abuse charges in 1984, according to Bklyner. His supervisor in Canarsie, Freddy Gilstein, was convicted of child sex abuse last year. Noaker said that while Schwartz, who has since passed away, faced legal accountability at least for one of his crimes, PAL has never had to answer for its allowance of the abuse.

Schwartz’s passing means he cannot personally face accountability for these latest allegations, but one alleged victim says that she hopes the lawsuits succeed in preventing future abuse.

“I’m hoping that this never happens to another child again,” she said. “And that there should be some accountability for the PAL, the Police Athletic League. Look at the first word there, what place would you trust more with your children?”

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