Daniel Rubin: Penn State scandal drags up bad memories for Philadelphia man

Victims' advocate Greg Bucceroni has been reminded all over again of the silence that surrounded the crimes of his molester.
Victims' advocate Greg Bucceroni has been reminded all over again of the silence that surrounded the crimes of his molester. (DANIEL RUBIN / Staff)
Posted: December 01, 2011

Greg Bucceroni doesn't keep many things to himself. You run into the victims' advocate around town and he'll eagerly weigh in on the matter of the day, whether it's the psyche of the Kensington strangler or the menace of a flash mob.

But for a long time, his fiancee sensed he was hiding something. "First I thought he was cheating on me," Brenda Rivera said. Then she suspected drink or drugs. "He'd wash his mouth out two or three times a day. I always wondered."

Over their 16 years together, she'd grown used to his distance, his habit of staring into space or disappearing for hours - he'd tell her he was walking the hardest streets, helping victims. These last few weeks, his behavior grew worse.

"We'd be watching television and they'd start talking about the Penn State scandal. You could see the look of anger on his face. His lips would become a flat line. He'd say, 'That's what's wrong with this world. People don't speak up and do the right thing.' "

Last weekend, events that stayed buried for 30 years erupted. Bucceroni drove Rivera to her mother's in Kensington for Thanksgiving, ate, then slipped out the door. He walked through the SugarHouse Casino, but the crowds got to him. He spent the night driving around, then slept in his Chevy Tahoe outside a Dunkin' Donuts.

The next night, he found himself sitting in Liberty Lands Park, crying. And on Saturday, he told Rivera everything.

As a boy, he confided, he'd been victimized in one of Philadelphia's most sordid affairs. He was not yet 13 in the mid-'70s when he met a businessman named Eddie Savitz in South Philly at a community meeting for troubled kids. Bucceroni was a troubled kid, and Savitz was supposed to be a mentor.

What Savitz really was was a pedophile. Over a decade, prosecutors contended in 1992, hundreds of young boys visited Savitz's homes near Rittenhouse Square and were paid for sexual acts and for their soiled underwear. Savitz, an expert actuary in a bad toupee, would log every encounter and photograph his young visitors, whom he plied with beer, cigarettes, and gifts.

Nine days before trial, Savitz died in prison of AIDS. Prosecutors had lined up 30 boys to testify against him, but Bucceroni wasn't one of them. After what happened to him a few weeks before his 16th birthday, in April 1980, he kept his mouth shut.

He and a friend went to Savitz's looking to make $20 so they could go to the movies. In Savitz's foyer, nearly 20 boys were already waiting. So Bucceroni and his buddy jumped the line and scrapped with other boys and with Savitz, whose wallet they emptied. The fight spilled onto the street. Police responded.

Bucceroni spent hours in the Ninth District police station, and eventually he told investigators what Savitz had been doing to him for years. Nothing happened. Savitz decided not to press charges, and Bucceroni was cut loose. He's felt betrayed by law enforcement ever since.

That's the story he told his fiancee. She listened, asking a few questions. When he was done, an hour later, he said he had feared telling the story because he didn't want to lose his job as a school police officer or push away Rivera or their 6-year-old daughter.

"I'm not going anywhere," she said.

After baring his soul, the voluble Bucceroni wrote a long e-mail, naming names and accusing various politicians of looking the other way for so many years.

Then he sent it to everyone he could imagine. It's part of his healing, he said, to get justice for him and for the others who have never talked about what went on in Savitz's back room.

Rivera has insisted that Bucceroni get counseling. So he has contacted Women Organized Against Rape, which has offered to help him find a therapist.

"There are hundreds of us out there who went through what I went through," he said. "For years I was blaming myself. It's good to be able to talk about it."


Contact columnist Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917, drubin@phillynews.com, or @danielrubin on Twitter. Read his blog at philly.com/blinq.

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