Firm News Blog

Steve Coffey and Pamela Nichols Win Substantial Settlement In Federal Court For Child Victims Act Case

Personal Injury Attorneys Steve Coffey and Pamela Nichols successfully settled a case on March 1, 2022 for a Williamstown woman, Ashley Benson, against former Stephentown highway superintendent and owner of Gardner’s Ice Cream & Coffee Shoppe, Neil Gardner, who sexually abused her as a young child approximately 25 years ago – at times even at the Shoppe.  Ms. Benson became one of the first survivors under the Child Victim Act to actually proceed to trial. In fact, Ms. Benson courageously brought her case to federal court and shortly before the jury was drawn before Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, settled her case for a substantial undisclosed amount of money.

Ms. Benson, a Licensed Independent Clinal Social Worker and owner of Optimal Healing, an LLC dedicated to aiding people in their journey of healing, had initially approached the New York State Police in 2006 to press charges for the sexual acts committed by Mr. Gardner against her.  Unfortunately, at that time, she was advised along with her attorney, Brian Baker of Stephentown, New York, that the statute of limitations had run on the criminal case.

Below is the incredibly profound statement that Ms. Benson made in open court to the Defendant.

“Mr. Gardner, there are no parts of my life that have not been impacted by the manipulation, the exploitation, and the sexual assault you have put me through. You have scared me. You do scare me. You have intimidated me. You exploited me as a child, a 13-year-old girl.

Today, I stand here to give that 13-year-old girl a voice, to let the world know that you are a dangerous man, but most of all, to give home and justice to myself, my future, my daughter, your granddaughters and the other lives you have impacted by selfishness, your predatory behavior, and greed.

I wish no ill will toward you or your family. I have carried the guilt and shame of this trauma and the impacts of these events for a long, long time. It’s your turn to take them back.”

Ms. Benson has never deviated or hesitated in her quest to reach justice and vindication for the horrible acts that the Defendant committed against her.  Mr. Gardner himself is not a stranger to the justice system.  In fact, he previously was convicted of 12 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, and 12 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing, in County Court in Rensselaer County in the early 2000’s.  Ms. Benson was represented by Pamela Nichols, Stephen Coffey of O’Connell and Aronowitz, and Brian Baker, her personal attorney.

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