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Child sex-abuse prosecutions extended

Virginia Graham watches as Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill extending the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases.


OLYMPIA – Virginia Graham’s journey to get justice for victims of child sex abuse isn’t over, but after nearly 10 years of pleading and prodding the Legislature she can take a breather.

A bill that extends the statute of limitations on child sex crimes to allow charges to be filed until the victim turns 30 was signed into law Thursday afternoon. The Spokane mother of three stood at Gov. Jay Inslee’s right hand as he put his signature on the bill. Former Rep. John Ahern, who fought for much of that decade to change the law was nearby, as was newly elected Rep. Jeff Holy, who picked up fight when succeeding Ahern.

In one hand, Graham held a handkerchief that moved frequently to her face, dabbing tears as Inslee signed the bill and ceremonial pens were passed out. In the other, she clutched tight to a pair of purple and white rosaries that wound around her palm…



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House expands time to prosecute child sex crimes

OLYMPIA — Sex crimes involving minors could be prosecuted until the victim turns 30 under a bill that passed unanimously this morning in the House of Representatives.

HB 1352 mirrors a bill that passed last week in the and seeks to expand the statute of limitations to allow prosecutions after a victim becomes an adult and is better able to report the crime.

 Current law says that first- and second-degree child rape involving a victime 14 or under can be prosecuted until the victim reaches 28 but only if it is reported in the first year. Cases involving a victim between 14 and 18 can be prosecuted for 10 years if it is reported within a year.

Minor differences in the two bills will have to be worked out by the two chambers.



Senate expands time to prosecute child sex crimes

OLYMPIA — The Senate voted unanimously this morning to expand the time a person can be charged with sex crimes against a minor.

Under Senate Bill 5100, a suspect in a sexual assault, molestation, incest of indecent liberties case could be charged at any time before the victim turns 30.

The proposal is the latest version of an effort in recent years to expand the statute of limitations on sex crimes involving children. Some previous efforts have left open the time when such a charge can be filed, although law enforcement officials argued that would offer victims false hopes because the chances of obtaining a prosecution diminish as years pass.

"This does strike a balance," Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said, giving victims time to report and police a chance to catch offenders.

A person who commits a sex crime against someone who is less than 18 years old could be prosecuted for that crime until the victim turns 30. Current state law says that first and second-degree child rape involving a victim 14 or under can be prosecuted until the victim reaches 28, but only if it is reported in the first year. Cases involving a victim between 14 and 18 can be prosecuted for 10 years, if it is reported within a year.

The bill now moves to the House, where previous efforts to extend the statute of limitations on child sex offenses have passed with strong support.

For previous coverage of SB 5100, click here.

WA Lege Day 17: Extending the time to prosecute child rape

OLYMPIA – Washington may extend the statute of limitations on cases of child rape, making it possible to convict some predators after their victims grow up.

But victims of sexual abuse and their families told a Senate panel that doesn’t go far enough. There should be no statute of limitations on child sexual assault, just as there is no such limit on murder and some other homicide crimes.

A woman who told the Senate Law and Justice Committee she was sexually abused starting around age 12 said many young victims need time to process what has happened to them. They may not be able to do that until they are adults.

 “Everybody deserves a chance to be heard,” the woman who identified herself as Shelly said. . .

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Bill ends statute of limitations for rape

A proposal to end the statue of limitations on first- and second-degree rape unanimously passed the Washington House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The House voted 98-0 to send House Bill 1657 to the Senate, where it will first be considered by the judicial committee.

Current state law requires victims who were abused as children to report the sexual abuse by their 28th birthday.

“This legislation says that we won’t allow sexual predators to live their lives free of justice while their victims pay a life sentence,” bill sponsor Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, said in a prepared statement.

Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin recounted her own sexual abuse as a child while testifying in favor of the bill earlier this month.

“The victims who testified on this legislation told us it took them a very long time to heal from the crimes against them, to cope and recover from the mind control,” Ahern said. “We must not remove their ability to accuse their abusers simply because they’ve reached a certain age.”

Idaho lifted the statute of limitations on all child sex crimes in 2006.

WA Lege Day 51: Prosecutions extended for child sex cases

OLYMPIA — The House removed time limits on prosecuting pedophiles, allowing charges to be brought long after victims become adults.

With a unanimous vote, the House approved HB 1647, which eliminates the statute of limitations on the most serious child sex crimes, and extends it to 10 years for certain sexual assault cases involving adult victims. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, said the change will give closure to victims and act as a deterrent to child rapists.

Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said that may be true for some victims, but noted sex assault convictions can be difficult even when reported promptly: "We will create some hopes that will be dashed by a prosecutor or maybe a jury."

The bill now moves to the Senate.

WA Lege Day 30: Signature-gathering, death penalty, rape laws

OLYMPIA — Hearings today run the gamut from rules covering collecting signatures on initiatives to abolishing the death penalty to eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual assault.

A morning hearing at the State Government Committee generated familiar testimony for and against a plan to requires signature gathering businesses to register with the state, paid signature gatherers to sign the back of their petitions and provide other information. The bill also would raise the filing fee from $5 to $50.

An afternoon hearing in Senate Judiciary would abolish the death penalty in Washington, substituting life in prison without parole for cases that currently carry capital punishment.

Also in the afternoon, the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee has a bill that would allow prosecution for first or second-degree rape of a minor. Rape of an adult could be prosecuted within 10 years if the crime is reported to police within a year of the attack, but would have to be prosecuted within the current three-year limit if the attack is not reported within a year of the attack.

No word yet on when the Legislature will revisit proposals to block tax increases for unemployment insurance or the supplemental budget.

It's Immigrants Day and Employment Day for All at the Capitol.

After years of trying, advocates pass law extending statute of limitations in child sex crimes…

(This admittedly falls into the category of better-late-than-never news, but I suspect that proponents would say the same thing of the bill itself.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill — closely watched in Spokane — to extend the statute of limitations for some sex crimes against children. Instead of having to prosecute things like first-degree rape of a child under 14 by the time the victim turns 21 or 24, for example, law enforcement could go after the perpetrator up until the time that same victim turns 28.

For years, former local prosecutor Don Brockett has been beating the drum for complete elimination of the statute of limitations in major child sex crimes. Some things, the reasoning goes, are so horrific and life-changing that the offender should spent the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, worried about a police knock on the door.

Local lawmakers, including state Sen. Chris Marr and former state Rep. John Ahern, tried to make that change in recent years, only to run into resistance from lawmakers and some victims advocates and prosecutors. It does no good, opponents argued, to wrongly give victims false hope of prosecuting a case decades after the fact, as documents are lost and memories fade. And defense attorneys argued that it would be extremely difficult to defend an innocent person in such cases.

“Who could imagine that protecting today’s kids from pedophiles by giving yesterday’s victims a chance to grow up and realize the harm and speak up would be controversial? But it was,” Spokane attorney Beth Bollinger wrote on her blog tracking progress of the bill all session.

Brockett (whom I couldn’t immediately reach) is clearly happy with the change, which makes it harder for rapists and molesters to run out the clock and avoid prosecution. But Brockett has long advocated no statute of limitations at all for a wide array of sex crimes involving children.

“You can be sure their molesters are keeping track of that time, knowing they will be able to continue to molest more children with the assurance they will not have the responsibility for their crimes and will not be recognized in the communities in which they live,” Brockett wrote today.

In February, Bollinger went to Olympia to testify on behalf of the change. Abuse victims feel shame and isolation, she and other advocates told the Senate Judiciary Committee, and even 28 is a pretty early age for someone to step forward and reveal past abuse.

After some starts and stops, the bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law last week by Gov. Gregoire. It takes effect July 26.

Bollinger wrote on her blog:

I ended up not going to the bill’s signing ceremony. Don didn’t go, and I just decided it would be a lot of driving for just a few minutes. It would have been fun but, in a way, it was unnecessary. The most important thing already had happened. The bill had become law.