Lawyer responds to lawsuit

JOHNSTOWN — An attorney representing the Fulton County YMCA — accused in a civil underage rape case — on Tuesday denied “any liability” pertaining to a recently-filed lawsuit.

Attorney Adam H. Cooper of the Albany-based Carter Conboy law firm issued a statement in regards to a recent federal lawsuit.

The family of a 12-year-old girl allegedly raped by a former Fulton County YMCA employee at the facility filed a $10 million civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albany Thursday against the facility and the accused suspect. The Albany law firm of O’Brien & Wood, PLLC filed a federal complaint against the Fulton County YMCA and suspect Tyler R. Benton, 19, whose address is not being released by authorities. The firm is representing the family of an alleged 12-year-old victim in the case.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department has arrested Benton in connection with the recent incident at the YMCA on Harrison Street in the town of Johnstown. Benton is charged with one felony count of first-degree rape in connection with sexual activity allegedly involving an underage person. He is accused of having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 13, according to the sheriff’s office.

Cooper, representing the YMCA, told The Leader-Herald Tuesday: “I am aware of the allegations being made against the Fulton County YMCA and we deny any liability with respect to these claims. My client has not yet been served with a complaint but as the matter is now apparently in suit, and it involves a minor, we cannot comment any further with respect to ongoing litigation beyond the statement that was issued by the YMCA previously.”

That statement to YMCA members and the community from Steven Serge, CEO, read in part: “At the Fulton County YMCA the safety of children and families has and always will be our top priority. We are aware of the charges associated with one of our former employees and are deeply disturbed by his alleged actions. The staff person is no longer employed by the Y and we are cooperating with local authorities in their investigation. Mr. Benton was a part-time employee with the Y since 2017. When he was hired he underwent our comprehensive employment processes which included a New York State Central Registry background check as well as him agreeing to and signing the YMCA Code of Conduct which details behavioral standards all Y employees must follow. When learning about what may have occurred, the YMCA self-initiated contact with the Fulton County Sheriff’s office.”

The statement added: “For well over 100 years the Fulton County YMCA has served our community with distinction and pride as an organization focused on youth development. We are committed to helping children and families grow and thrive as healthy, strong individuals.”

Benton has been arraigned in Perth Town Court and was initially sent to the Fulton County Jail in lieu of $2,500 cash or $5,000 bond bail. A jail spokesman said Tuesday he has since been released. Benton will appear June 19 in Johnstown Town Court.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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