March 06, 2005

Reilly changes stance on statute of limitations for child sex abuse

Telegram & Gazette


BOSTON— Attorney General Tom Reilly, reversing his earlier stance, said he will support legislation to eliminate the 15-year statute of limitations for sex-abuse crimes against children.

"A predator of a child should never be out of the reach of the law," Reilly said in a telephone interview with the Boston Sunday Globe. "If a prosecutor can make a case, and there are victims who are willing and able to make that case, the law should not stand in their way."

The recent trial of former priest Paul Shanley was a factor for Reilly, who described the prosecution of Shanley as "a very important case."

Reilly met with the victim in that case, and on the day of Shanley's sentencing to 12 to 15 years in prison, the courtroom was filled with alleged Shanley victims who said they couldn't press charges because of the statute of limitations.

"When someone is brave enough to come forward and testify and confront their abuser, they should not be prevented because of any technicality in the law," Reilly said.

In Shanley's case, the then-priest left the state in 1990, stopping the clock on the statute of limitations. After his arrest in 2002, his case became a public example of the problems of prosecuting sexual abusers in cases dating back decades.

In 2003, after Reilly's office delivered a report that found clergy may have abused up to 1,000 children over the last 60 years, Reilly said he could not support elimination of the statute. He said he instead supported tougher penalties for priests and others who didn't report abuse.

Posted by kshaw at March 6, 2005 07:44 AM