A man who claims he was a victim of sexual abuse in his teens by disgraced former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is now asking legislators in Illinois to change the statute of limitations on sex crimes.
“Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for, yet he got a slap on the wrist… As hard as it is to continue to live through the events of the past, the laws of Illinois and across the country have to change,” Cross testified, according to ABC News.
The statute of limitations in Illinois for sex crimes against minors generally runs out 20 years after an alleged victim’s 18th birthday. Cross is now asking legislators to reconsider whether a statute of limitations is appropriate in sex abuse cases.
“It should offend everyone’s faith in the judicial system that Illinois laws today would still allow sexual child molesters to avoid prosecution from heinous acts of sexual abuse because a survivor didn’t come forward in time,” Cross said during his testimony.
He added, “[Sexual predators] know no bounds, have no decency and are devoid of morals. That’s why Illinois General Assembly should provide sexual predators no safe harbor based on the law based on arbitrary deadlines established by the stroke of a pen.”
However, critics say removing the statute of limitations would likely be unconstitutional. In fact, a prominent Chicago defense lawyer told the news outlet the existing 20-year statute of limitations may already be unconstitutional.
“I personally find the long statute of limitations unconstitutional in that it violates equal protection of the law and due process law both found in the 14th Amendment,” defense attorney Michael Ettinger explained. “How does anyone defend themselves against an allegation of misconduct 20-plus years ago? Put an alibi defense together 20 years later? Statutes of limitations are enacted for that very reason.”
The very nature of child sex abuse means most people will not be able to deal with the sexual abuse in less than 20 years at a level that will allow them to go to court. So, while it may be unfair to ask a pervert to try and defend himself 20 or 30 years later, it is even more unfair to tell the victim that he has no redress in court because he's 39 or 40 years old.
To make matters worse, the more extreme the child sex abuse, the less likely the victim will disclose in time to meet the statute of limitations deadline. Consequently, the worse the criminal behaviour, the more likely the pervert is liable to get away scott-free (pardon the pun).
There ought to be a place in criminal law where the victims have rights that exceed the criminal's, rather than the other way about.