Amid growing concern about sexual abuse of children, New York state lawmakers announced that a former Syracuse University coach who is charged with abusing children will not be facing justice, because the statute of limitations had run out on his case. The New York lawmakers are pushing efforts to reform child sex abuse laws, similar to actions in Delaware and California.
Syracuse University coach Bernie Fine has been accused of fondling two boys as far back as the 1980s. Though the authorities do not doubt the truth, the statute of limitations has run out on the case and he cannot be prosecuted.
Similarly, a Brooklyn Poly Prep football coach molested dozens of boys over 25 years. In 2005, an alumnus of the school attempted to sue the school, but the case was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.
Prosecutors say that they will be turning the Syracuse University case over to federal authorities, because there is no federal statute of limitations. It might be difficult for the federal case to establish jurisdiction, however, because federal cases must have some sort of inter-state aspect.
New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Makey has introduced a proposal that would make the five-year statute of limitations begin when the child turns 23, instead of the current age 18. The law would also provide a 1-year window for children for whom the statute of limitations has passed to bring a civil suit against their abusers, which seeks monetary damages but not incarceration.
Another New York Assemblyman, J. Gary Pretlow, is proposing changing the law so the five-year statute of limitations is extended to 30 years. Another proposal would make the five-year statute begin when the sex crime is first reported to law enforcement.
Reforms to child sexual abuse laws in Delaware in 2007 eliminated the civil statute of limitations. The changes resulted in 14 men coming forward who were sexually assaulted during the 1970s and 1980s by Catholic Church employees. The case was settled for $7 million.
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