Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer who frequently boasts about his personal character and those of his associates, has had a long personal and business association with an accused pedophile priest.
Few people are closer to Giuliani than Monsignor Alan Placa, who is part of the former New York mayor’s innermost circle of friends and advisers. The two have been friends since childhood, and Placa played a key role in many of Giuliani’s major life events, most recently when he officiated at the 2017 wedding of Giuliani’s son, Andrew, who works at the Trump White House as a sports liaison. Placa also has had an ill-defined role at Giuliani’s consulting business, listing himself on his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles as a “senior vice president” at the firm.
Placa has long been dogged by allegations that he sexually abused children in the 1970s at a Catholic high school on Long Island. Those allegations — which Placa has long denied — were revived again in recent months when two former students sued him in previously unreported lawsuits filed in New York Supreme Court.
One of the cases was brought by Richard Tollner, who has been accusing Placa of sexual assault for years. Tollner was 16 when, he claims, Placa drugged and raped him during a trip to Fire Island, New York, in the fall of 1975. The other man, Christopher Fernan, alleged Placa sexually abused him more than 100 times from 1974 to 1977, including one attempt that occurred onstage during a school play. The lawsuits were filed in August in Nassau County after the passage of New York’s Child Victims Act gave accusers one year to file claims, regardless of how long ago the abuse took place.
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Placa has never faced criminal charges for abusing children, as the statute of limitations had long expired when the allegations became public. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican organization that deals with clergy sexual abuse, acquitted Placa in 2009 of charges of molesting children, and he was deemed a retired priest in good standing.
Placa is clearly aware that his connection to the president’s personal attorney is a sensitive subject. In response to a message sent to his email address at Giuliani Partners, Placa told Rolling Stone that he was unavailable for comment, even before he was asked a question. (Placa’s attorney, Joseph Nador, also said he was not able to comment.) In court papers, Placa called the allegations in both lawsuits an attempt to damage his good reputation, curry favor with the media, and coerce the Catholic church into paying a hefty sum even though it did nothing wrong.
Placa’s social media profiles identified him as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners, the former mayor’s consulting business. Placa, who is also a lawyer, listed Giuliani Partners as his business address in his registration with the New York State Bar. His role at Giuliani Partners was never clear to people who worked with him. “I don’t know what he did. I don’t know what he worked on. He was just there,” said a former Giuliani aide.
To some, Placa represents the enormous blind spot that Giuliani has for his own behavior — the same blind spot that has led him to squander his reputation in repeated, foolish TV antics in his defense of Trump and the pressure campaign he ran in Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. “It’s consistent with the incredibly opaque nature of his own judgment that he just doesn’t get it,” said the former Giuliani aide.
Giuliani, who did not return messages left seeking comment, has stood by his friend when questions about Placa have come up. “I know the man; I know who he is, so I support him,” Giuliani said in 2007 in the midst of his unsuccessful White House run. “We give some of the worst people in our society the presumption of innocence and benefit of the doubt,” he said. “And, of course, I’m going to give that to one of my closest friends.”
These days, presumption of innocence and benefit of the doubt are courtesies Giuliani has been unwilling to extend to Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Giuliani recently returned from a trip to Ukraine with a right-wing TV network in tow and accused the Bidens of a conspiracy involving extortion, bribery, and money laundering. (The claim, which the Bidens deny, centers on an uncorroborated document purportedly written by prosecutors in Latvia.)
Placa began working at Giuliani Partners in 2002 after allegations first surfaced that he had abused children and the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island suspended him pending an investigation. The following year, a grand jury in Suffolk County released a landmark report into sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Although Placa’s name does not appear in the 180-page report, news stories, one of the alleged victims, biographical details in the report, and the Nassau County lawsuits all point to him as the individual identified as “Priest F.” In a 2003 interview with The New York Times, Placa acknowledged that the report made him out to be a “monster.”
As a newly ordained priest in the 1970s, Priest F made “feeble attempts” to molest an altar boy, the report found, but he was then given an assignment that “provided a large and continuous source of boys — a school.”
“Everyone in the school knew to stay away from Priest F,” the report stated. “Priest F was cautious, but relentless in his pursuit of victims.”
From 1974 to 1978, Placa was assigned to St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, New York, where he served as dean of students. Perhaps the school’s most illustrious alum is Fox News personality Sean Hannity, a 1980 graduate of St. Pius X. (A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to emails seeking comment.)
Priest F — like Placa — later had a critical role in developing diocese policies dealing with the sort of child sexual-abuse allegations he is accused of committing in the New York lawsuits.
Giuliani and Placa met at a Catholic high school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. At least one night a week, Placa stayed over at Giuliani’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and the two talked about poetry, theology, and politics well into the night. They both enrolled at Manhattan College and pledged the same fraternity. Placa served as Giuliani’s best man at his wedding to his first wife, Regina, in 1968.
Fourteen years later, it was Placa who found a loophole that allowed Giuliani to annul his marriage, according to Wayne Barrett’s 2000 investigative biography, Rudy! (The loophole: Giuliani and his wife were second cousins, and failed to obtain the church’s official dispensation to wed.) Placa then married Giuliani and his second wife, Donna Hanover, and baptized their children. He officiated at the funeral of Giuliani’s mother, and was photographed on a trip to Rome with Giuliani and his third wife, Judith Nathan, in 2007.
A second former Giuliani aide said that the continued relationship between the two men as well as the priest’s long yet undefined role at Giuliani Partners was part of the former mayor’s practice of, as the old maxim dictates, keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.
“He didn’t coin it,” the aide said, “but boy, oh, boy, did he practice it.”