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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Child Rapists
For Immediate Release June 26, 2003 Contacts: Barbara Blaine (312) 399-4747 cell David Clohessy (314) 566 9790 cell or (314) 645 5915 Peter Isely (414) 429-7259 cell, (414) 963 8617 Mark Serrano (703) 771 9606 Mary Grant (626) 419 2960 Terrie Light (510) 517 3338 ABUSE VICTIMS RESPOND TO SUPREME COURT RULING ON PROSECUTION OF SEX ABUSERS Statement by Terrie Light of San Francisco, Board member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation's largest and most active support group for women and men victimized by clergy. This decision is a victory for child molesters and those who shelter them. The message to abusers is clear: "If you successfully conceal your crimes and run out the time clock, you're home free forever." The message to victims is chilling: "No matter how severely you suffer, you have no chance to expose your molester and protect others." The message to parents is frightening: "Be even more careful with your children, because law enforcement can go after few molesters." It is now more important than ever that victims fight despondency and somehow keep gaining the strength and courage to step forward and expose their abusers. It is also critical that police and prosecutors work even harder to pursue molesters despite this setback. Finally, church leaders need to examine their hearts and finally do what's right and release secret records on these dangerous men, so that parents can be warned and children can be protected. By GINA HOLLAND Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the government cannot retroactively erase statutes of limitations, a defeat for prosecutors trying to pursue priests accused of long-ago sex abuse. On a 5-4 vote, the justices struck down a California law that allowed prosecutions for old sex crimes. It was challenged by a 72-year-old man accused of molesting his daughters when they were children. The case was closely watched because of sex abuse problems in the Roman Catholic church, but it also has implications for terrorism and other crimes. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court, said the Constitution bars states from revising already expired legal deadlines. Marion Stogner is among hundreds of people convicted under a 1994 California law that changed the statute of limitations for some sex offenses. Earlier this week, two former Catholic priests were charged with molesting children when they were assigned to the Los Angeles archdiocese decades ago. Critics argue that it's unfair to change the rules after witnesses are dead and evidence lost. Supporters of deadline changes, including the American Psychological Association, contend that child molesters aren't usually exposed until after statutes of limitations have expired. Statutes of limitations vary by state and by crime, in some instances as short as one year for minor wrongdoing to no limit for murder. Some states have extended their deadlines for filing charges in sex crimes, but California took the exceptional step of retroactively changing the time limit. Charges must be filed within one year after the victims file a police report. "We believe that this retroactive application of a later-enacted law in unfair," Breyer wrote. Stogner, a retired paper plant worker and veteran of the Korean War, was prosecuted in 2001 for molestation that began almost 50 years ago. Police were told of the allegations while investigating molestation claims against his sons. His daughters said that he began molesting them when they were under age five and the abuse went on for years. One daughter said she became pregnant when she was 16, at a time she was being molested by her dad and brother. The case gave the court its first opportunity to say whether states can retroactively nullify criminal statutes of limitations. In a dissent, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that California should be allowed to punish "serious sex offenses" against children. He was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The Bush administration had argued that a ruling against California would threaten the USA Patriot Act, which retroactively withdrew statutes of limitations in terrorism cases involving hijackings, kidnappings, bombings and biological weapons. "No law like this has been upheld in the more than 200 years of our Republic,' said Jeffrey Fisher, who supported Stogner in the case on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. During the argument in the case in March, abuse victims picketed in front of the court. Since the Roman Catholic Church became embroiled in a sex abuse scandal last year, more than 300 priests either resigned or retired because of allegations of wrongdoing. The case is Stogner v. California, 01-1757.

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