Jersey Journal Sacco case:

January 23, 2013

LAWYER: Walter Lesnevich, Esq. — A retired Guttenberg machinist has left an estate of more than $500,000 to charity, money that he was awarded in a lawsuit in 1989 following the death of his only son at the old St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken.

Peter Sacco, 89, who lived at the Galaxy Towers in Guttenberg, was killed last March when he was struck by a car as he crossed a street near his home.

In his will, he asked that his attorney, Walter Lesnevich of Hackensack, donate his entire estate.

“He didn’t want the money,” said Lesnevich.

Lesnevich said Sacco’s son, Peter Jr., suffered from schizophrenia. “He had good days and bad. He lived with his dad and would disappear . . . he wasn’t on meds. Twenty years ago was the dark ages” for medication, the attorney said.

After one disappearance, Lesnevich said Sacco found his son in a shelter in Union City. He took the young man, then about 23 years old, to St. Mary’s, where he was admitted to the psychiatric unit.

At the hospital, a doctor quadrupled the young man’s dose of Haldol and then refused to take his temperature when a fever began. “His temperature went up to 107 degrees. He went into a brain seizure and died in his father’s arms,” Lesnevich said, adding that as a result, the temperature of Haldol patients everywhere is now monitored every four hours.

Sacco sued the doctor and nurse, and won a jury award of $3.6 million, but finally settled with the insurance company for $1 million, Lesnevich said.

“He didn’t touch any of the money. He was very shy. This was his only child and he wasn’t married. He was a retired machinist and lived very sparsely at the Galaxy,” Lesnevich said, adding “Peter would call me over the years to give some to one agency or another.”

So far, $200,000 of the estate has been distributed.

The first donation of $100,000 went to The Bridge, a New York City agency that serves more than 2,000 men and women with serious mental illness, the homeless, and people with HIV/AIDS. On its staff is Dr. Roger Brunswick, who testified for Sacco during the suit in the 1980s, Lesnevich said, adding that the agency serves people who suffer from the same types of problems that young Sacco had.

The second $100,000 donation was made this month to Rutgers Law School, where Lesnevich and his wife and partner, Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, went to school.

The Bridge and Rutgers have now connected through the Sacco donations, Lesnevich said, and the money will help establish a Veterans Psychiatric Outreach program, including housing, at The Bridge and the develop services for veterans at Rutgers, both to aid veterans who have mental health issues or legal or housing needs.

“The ongoing combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere has left tens
of thousands of our troops physically wounded, and countless others
wounded in other, less obvious ways. Tragically, their struggles are all
too often compounded because they lack the legal help they need to
secure the benefits to which they are entitled and to deal with personal
challenges that stem from their military service,” said John J.
Farmer, Jr., Dean of Rutgers School of Law–Newark.

“Last year several of our students who are veterans started working with William
Greenberg, an alumnus who has just become a judge of the U.S. Court of
Veterans Appeals, on a new veterans assistance project. Now, because of
the compassion and generosity of Peter Sacco, Rutgers Law School has the
resources to explore additional ways to make a difference in the lives
of more New Jersey veterans.”