End to statute of limitations for child sex offender cases advancesby Dara Kam | April 19th, 2010
An effort to do away with the statute of limitations on child sex molestation cases for crimes against children between the ages of 12 and 16 is headed to the Senate floor after some tense negotiations this morning.
The Catholic Church and criminal defense lawyers oppose the measure and tried at the last minute to extend the time limits, now three years after the child reaches age 21.
Michael Dolce, a Royal Palm Beach lawyer who was sexually abused by a neighbor in his home state of Maryland when he was seven years old, has tried for six years to get the measure passed.
This year Dolce has powerful lobbyist Ron Book on his side. Book’s daughter Lauren was sexually molested by her nanny. Lauren Book-Lim is walking across the state to raise awareness and support for the issue and is expected to reach the Capitol tomorrow.
Sen. Alex Villalobos, a former prosecutor and Catholic, asked a series of questions showing his opposition to the measure because of the difficulty those accused of the crimes would have defending themselves after decades pass.
Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Committee Chairman Victor Crist recessed the committee to allow both sides to negotiate on setting a number of years instead of doing away with the time limits completely, sensing bill (SB 870) sponsor Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, may not have had the votes to pass it.
A heated discussion took place in the anteroom outside the committee.
“I don’t want a number. We’re past the time for numbers,” an irate Book told the bill’s opponents, saying he reached out to them two weeks ago but has had no response. “Two weeks have now passed. Nobody’s called me. No smoke signals. No carrier pigeons. No e-mails. Nothing.”
Dolce gave a hurried testimony as the clock ticked down on the meeting’s end.
“I simply ask for your support today. No child should have to walk in these shoes,” he concluded.
With less than two minutes left before the meeting’s end, the committee passed the bill 3-1, with Villalobos, R-Miami, voting against it.
The House version is also ready to be voted on by the full chamber.