Sex-Abuse Bill Stalls Once More in NY State Capital Attempts to revamp the statute of limitations for sexual-abuse cases involving minors slow

Sex-Abuse Bill Stalls Once More in NY State Capital

A renewed drive to overhaul New York’s statute of limitations for sexual-abuse cases involving minors appears to have stalled in the state Legislature, despite attracting a record number of sponsors this year, advocates said.

Legislative attempts to revamp the statute date back a decade. Versions of the bill have passed four times in the Assembly, but never received a vote in the Senate. The legislative session ends on June 17.

Under current law, people who were sexually abused as minors have five years after they turn 18 to file a claim against their alleged abuser.

The bill, which attracted more than 60 sponsors in the Assembly, including more than a dozen Republicans, would eliminate civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sex crimes against minors.

It would also introduce a one-time, one-year window, beginning 60 days after the governor signs the bill, to allow alleged victims to bring civil suits against people or institutions in older cases.

Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman, the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, noted that the chamber this year had passed 24 bills related to sexual violence or protecting children, including a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from working with children.

“The Senate often makes the issue of sexual abuse a marquee cause,” said Mr. Hoylman, whose district includes Chelsea and the West Village.

But when it comes to the statute of limitations, he said, “it is tough going.”

Republican state Sen. John Flanagan, the temporary president and majority leader of the Senate, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Among other objections, opponents of the bill say the one-year window for lawsuits would place an unfair burden on institutions forced to defend themselves against decades-old accusations.

“It becomes too costly to litigate every single case” resulting in large-scale settlements, regardless of the veracity of individual charges, said Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York State Catholic Conference, a lobbying group that represents the state’s Roman Catholic bishops.

The Catholic conference supports numerous changes to strengthen protections of children, he said, including mandated reporting of alleged abuse, background checks for public and private school teachers, and extending the amount of time victims have to file civil and criminal claims.

But others called the window critical—not only to allow victims to close painful chapters in their lives, but because children may still be at risk.

“The purpose of the window for me is to move a backlog and identify current abusers,” said Peter Brooks, who helped oversee a recent report detailing alleged abuse at Horace Mann, the elite Bronx private school, spanning the 1960s through the 1990s.

The report was commissioned by the Horace Mann Action Coalition, an independent alumni group formed to address the scandal. The school’s leaders have apologized.

Mr. Hoylman filed a motion April 22 designed to force the Senate codes committee to vote on the legislation, and he said that request was denied.

Michael Nozzolio, chairman of the codes committee, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Dean Murray, a Republican sponsor of the bill, called the current law’s age limits wrong.

“I’m sick and tired of having the criminals being protected more than the victims,” he said. “I think we need to change that in this state.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who has led efforts to change the law, said she was hopeful it would come to a vote next week in the Assembly, and that negotiations were continuing.

“There’s only one change I will not make and that is the window,” she said. “To me that’s the crux of the bill.”

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