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Father files lawsuit over alleged sexual assault of boy at Leonia firehouse

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Leonia firefighter today sued the borough, the fire department and others in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of his son by a special needs adult at the borough firehouse.

Darius E. Levine and his adoptive parents — David Levine and Christine Banas — are also named in the civil suit filed today by attorney Rosemarie Arnold in Superior Court in Hackensack on behalf of the Ridgefield Park boy.

“It seems that the investigation is revealing more and more that this teen has propensities for this kind of behavior,” Arnold told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning, “yet nobody did anything to protect innocent victims like my client.

“There was many adults who knew about these propensities — some members of the fire department and parents,” Arnold said. “But nobody wants to take responsibility for what happened to this child.

“Everyone is finger-pointing.”

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CLICK HERE for a copy of the suit: G.P. v. Levine, Borough of Leonia, et. al.

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The boy, identified in the lawsuit as G.P., is “shy, withdrawn,” Arnold said. “He’s speech-delayed.”

In addition, she said, the borough fired the boy’s father from the Fire Department after he retained her.

Leonia Borough Attorney Brian Giblin was in court today and said that he would review the suit after returning to his Oradell office later today.

Levine ( above, left ), who was 18 when he was accused of pinning the then-3-year-old boy in a firehouse locker and molesting him.

The boy “was caused to sustain and continues to sustain severe, permanent, physical and psychological injuries, was disabled, has suffered and will continue to suffer great physical and mental torment and will be compelled to spend great and diverse sums of money for medical aid and treatment and psychological counseling,” says the lawsuit, which seeks “compensatory damages, punitive damages, together with interest, attorney’s fees and costs of suit.”

Levine, now 19, has been held on $100,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, where he was taken after first being committed to the secure unit of Bergen Regional Medical Center following his June 14, 2013 arrest.

Screams brought volunteers running at the firehouse that night. The boy was riding scooters with his brother when Levine pinned the youngster behind a fire truck, a source with direct knowledge of the incident said.

Levine was “touching the boy and touching himself,” the source said, adding that firefighters pulled him away, then called police, as the frightened youngster was comforted.

Investigators were at the firehouse for several hours before arresting Levine and charging him with second-degree sexual assault by contact following an intensive review of the circumstances.

Although firefighters said they believed ordinary activities would resume the next day, borough officials immediately suspended department operations and secured mutual aid agreements from Fort Lee and Teaneck to cover their respective sides of town for two full days.

The governing body reopened the house, but with restricted access to trucks and equipment, and for medical emergencies.

The youngest of three adopted special-needs children in his family, the 4-foot-11-inch spent a lot of time around the firehouse. He was unable to become a full-fledged firefighter, however, because of his disabilities.

Levine was originally scheduled to graduate this year from the Community School of Teaneck, which serves children with learning disabilities and attention deficits.

He has also participated in the Puffin Cultural Forum, a project of the Teaneck-based Puffin Foundation Ltd., which reaches into the community for artwork and photography from all walks of life.

The lawsuit filed today alleges that Levine’s parents and borough firefighters “had actual knowledge and/or a reasonable reason to know of the likelihood of their child…to engage in sexually abusive behavior.”

The borough “had a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and/or warn and/or protect [the boy] from the harm,” it says.

The Levines, meanwhile, “knew and/or should have known of the necessity to control their child” and “had a duty to exercise reasonable supervision and/or control of the conduct of their child,” the lawsuit alleges.

It also says that the fire department and the borough “had a duty to reasonably and properly operate and/or control and/or supervise and/or maintain and/or provide security at the firehouse” but allowed a “dangerous and palpably unreasonable condition to exist” by not supervising Levine.

Finally, the suit accuses the borough of taking “retaliatory action” against the boy’s father by firing him.

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