To the editor:
I am writing to dispute and clarify the troublesome accusations made about me in last week’s front page article, “Child abuse victims stung by Albany inaction.”
First, let me say that I have spent my career standing up for the vulnerable and fighting to bring justice to those who have been victimized in some way or another. That’s why the article’s insinuation that I am somehow to blame for another’s inability to receive justice, and further, that I was in some way protecting those who have committed atrocious crimes, was unconscionable to me.
The article not only completely mischaracterized my position on the Child Victims Act, but also misrepresented my role in moving this legislation. Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has worked tirelessly on this issue for almost a decade, with a variety of Senate sponsors, and has crafted a much better bill in the current legislative session than the earlier 2006-2010 proposal I did not support. Older versions of her bill would have added five years to the existing criminal and civil statues of limitations, and allowed a single one-year period to file previously expired civil actions, primarily against the employers of now-elderly or deceased perpetrators. But, after that year, the previous bills gave current and future child victims coming forward after their twenty-eighth birthdays no criminal or civil recourse against their abusers, something that I could not support.
The new Markey legislation now eliminates the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal cases, making it a much more solid, and most importantly, victim-friendly piece of legislation that I can and will support. Unfortunately, Markey’s bill did not make it out of committee this year in the Assembly or the Senate, and so it was ineligible to come to a floor vote in either house. Therefore, I was shocked to read that this legislation’s failure to become law rested squarely on my shoulders — for as your readers know, a bill must pass both houses in order to make it to the Governor’s desk for signature.
It is also worth adding that I currently sponsor related legislation that would extend the criminal statute of limitations on child sex crimes by starting the clock on the date the crime is reported to law enforcement or the victim’s 18th birthday, whichever is later. Under my bill, young victims would be able to take as many years as they need to report sexual abuse, and prosecutors would then have the following five years to build a criminal case.
My heart goes out to Mr. Joseph Cumming, profiled in the article, and all victims of abuse who have had their innocence stolen and who deserve a swift and clear path to justice. Child predators, perpetrators and enablers of any and all types of child abuse must be punished — whether it is two or 20 years after a crime may have occurred. I will always stand on the side of victims to ensure we do all that we can to get these predators off of our streets, out of our schools and away from our children.
It is only by working together, not slinging arrows at one another, that we will be able to pass smart and comprehensive legislation that will get justice for those suffering the pain of past, hidden abuse and protect our children today and tomorrow.
JEFFREY D. KLEIN