As many as 17 accusers have now stepped forward to level sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation charges for acts that occurred decades ago against a former Mount Kisco camp counselor and Boys & Girls Club employee.
Bedford resident James Collins, 66, is the target of a civil suit initially filed last September on behalf of four men under New York’s Child Victims Act. The suit outlines in graphic detail how Collins allegedly groomed, harassed and molested pre-teen and teenage boys from 1980 to 1993 in and around Mount Kisco.
On Dec. 30, 2020, eight more plaintiffs joined an amended suit making similar claims. One of the attorneys representing the group, Saul Wolf, said recently there are five additional survivors the firm is representing who will be added to the complaint shortly.
Time is running short for some accusers who believe they were molested. The revised deadline to file a complaint is Aug. 13 for most victims, Wolf said. The deadline had been extended a year because of COVID-19.
All but one of the current 12 plaintiffs in the suit against Collins, the Village of Mount Kisco, the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, Horace Greeley High School and the Chappaqua Central School District were born from 1969 to 1974. The remaining accuser was born in 1960.
The team of lawyers said they have had reason to believe there were many more victims of Collins than the four who originally stepped forward.
“Our intent is to flush out everything that everyone knew and make sure there are no more secrets,” said Stu Mollrich, another attorney representing the plaintiffs.
The suit alleges that Collins committed offenses at or around Camp Iroquois and the Mount Kisco Village Pool, where he once worked as a camp coordinator; the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, where he organized various sports activities; and Horace Greeley High School where Collins had been a cafeteria monitor and teachers’ aide, and at his home.
The Examiner recently interviewed three of Collins’ accusers, two of whom are among the 10 different John Doe’s now named in the civil action, and Greg Ardanowski, one of the four original accusers last September.
One of the John Doe’s said after reading about the four who initially filed last year, he felt compelled to join the suit.
“I knew all these gentlemen because I grew up with them,” he said of his decision to join the complaint. “I mean, I wasn’t the closest of friends, but they were out there and they needed some support, so I felt it was my duty to come forward and back up their story and to tell my story.”
He said Collins was extremely cunning and manipulative in his grooming efforts, making himself to be someone you wanted to hang out with.
“We were 12 years old, and again at that time, we all believed that Jimmy was like great, he was there for everybody, he was providing us with rides to places when we couldn’t drive, he was supplying us with alcohol and porn,” the John Doe said. “To a certain extent we were like this is cool. We’ve got an adult not acting like an adult.”
Attempts to speak to Collins and his legal representation were unsuccessful. The Examiner approached him at his business, Jimmy’s, a bar and restaurant in Katonah, but he refused to speak or furnish his lawyer’s contact information.
An attorney, Jennifer Stewart, who had at least initially represented Collins in the suit although it is unclear whether she or the firm she works at still does, said she wasn’t authorized to speak about the matter.
Ardanowski was about 10 years old when he met Collins through the Mount Kisco Little League. Now living out of state, Ardanowski returned in 2017 for a high school reunion. A friend who he hadn’t seen in 20 years started asking questions about Collins and telling him how widespread the details about him in the community were, including stories about masturbation sessions that Collins directed. On at least one occasion Ardanowski was fondled, the suit stated.
“I was just amazed how much he knew about it and then he went on to tell me that he wasn’t the only one, how everybody in town knew about it, how everybody had talked about it for decades,” Ardanowski said.
The second John Doe that The Examiner interviewed said Collins started grooming boys at an impressionable age, when they weren’t equipped to push back. After the abuse and harassment began, his grades deteriorated and his chance to realize his full potential evaporated.
“I struggled in school mightily after this started because it was something on my mind every day,” he said. “I dropped significantly and to the point where I knew I wasn’t going to go away to college like that and just make it out. I don’t know what might have been. It’s something you think about every single day and it’s not something you should be thinking about when you’re 16 years old.”
Sarah Klein, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said she would like to know how Collins was able to apparently operate for decades. Unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against each defendant are being sought, but she declined to discuss how much they could receive.
She said research has shown the average underage abuse victim comes forward at about 52 years old. Now that they’re older, the plaintiffs are looking for accountability and the truth and to make sure others are protected.
“How did this man get away abusing little boys for decades and nothing was done to stop him, and that’s sort of why you file a civil lawsuit,” Klein said. “To give these men answers and to hopefully have some accountability because they were 12 and they never should have been subjected to this person.”