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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Home Government City of Rye $3.25 Million Settlement Stems from Sexual Abuse Case in Rye Fire Department

$3.25 Million Settlement Stems from Sexual Abuse Case in Rye Fire Department

(PHOTO: The Rye Fire Department's Milton Fire House. Credit: Will McCullough.)
(PHOTO: The Rye Fire Department’s Milton Fire House. Credit: Will McCullough.)

The $3.25 Million dollar settlement between the City of Rye and an undisclosed “John Doe” litigant stems from a suit filed with charges of horrific sexual abuse against an employee of the City of Rye, the Rye Fire Department and the Boy Scouts of America. 

The suit was made under the 2019 Child Victims Act that extended the statute of limitations for a survivor of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases in New York. The complaint was filed just before the pandemic in February 2020 by Merson Law on behalf of the “John Doe” plaintiff.

The complaint states that beginning in June of 1972:

  • Lieutenant Elwood “Joe” Ferris of the Rye Fire Department “would lure plaintiff into a defendant Rye Fire Department’s firehouse located on Milton Road, bringing seven year old plaintiff into bedroom, remove plaintiff’s clothes, fondle plaintiff’s genitals, molest plaintiff, rape plaintiff, and stick objects in plaintiff’s buttocks and rectum”
  • Ferris “would force plaintiff into a crawl space underneath firehouse, forcing plaintiff to remain in said crawlspace for hours in freezing temperatures, to both punish and intimidate plaintiff”

The complaint only becomes more difficult to read, stating the abuse took place both in the Milton firehouse and at the former Durland Scout Center on Milton Point’s Stuyvesant Avenue. In addition to being a Rye firefighter, Ferris was a caretaker at Durland for the Westchester-Putnam Council of the Boy Scouts of America. 

The suit charges other City employees were complicit in the abuse including then fire chief Harry Mooney and an unnamed employee of the Rye Department of Public Works. The then seven year old boy (who would now be approximately 57 years old) was subject to sexual abuse “at least twenty (20) to forty (40) times”.

Arrested 1973

Ferris was arrested in mid-1973 by the Rye Police Department. In his confession, Ferris stated “[plaintiff] came into the Milton Fire House on four or five occasions, during this time I played with the youths [sic] private parts with my hands only. Harry Moo Ney [sic] was present with me on these occasions. On or about Dec. of 1972 young [plaintiff] would come into the Milton Firehouse during these visits Harry Mooney and myself would drop our pants and played with the child also Harry Mooney has masturbated in front of the above [sic] youth on at least two occasions.”

Later in October 1973, Ferris pled guilty in New York State Supreme Court to a violation of New York State Penal Law Section 110/130.65, Attempted Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, and received a sentence of five years of probation on December 11, 1973.

Ferris Abuse Known

The details of Ferris are not new – his named surfaced in 2012 as part of the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Boy Scouts of America as part of the so-called “Perversion Files”. Records show Ferris died in 1975 at age 55.

Suit Directed at City

The 2020 suit was directed at the City of Rye, The Rye Fire Department and the Rye Department of Public Works charging negligence. These Rye entities, say the complaint, “allowed [Ferris and Mooney] unfettered access to plaintiff, as Lieutenant Ferris used facilities owned, operated, and maintained by the defendants, and as Chief Mooney, a person of authority acting on behalf of the municipal defendants, not only witnessed and partook in Lieutenant Ferris’ heinous actions, but also did nothing to prevent said acts from occurring, as did others who knew or should have known that plaintiff was being sexually abused.”

Discontinuance Days Before Settlement

After nearly three years and over 150 court documents, both sides signed a discontinuance on Thursday, December 8th–a document notifying the court that the case was over and the court could close the file. The Rye City Council approved the $3.25 Million dollar settlement 13 days later

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