New sex−abuse bill stalls

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Victims of child molestation that occurred in schools and other institutions will have to wait a little longer for justice to be served.

The State Assembly last week adjourned from its session without passing any of two competing bills on the issue.

At stake is millions of dollars in punitive damages from such institutions as the Catholic Church and several Brooklyn yeshivas.

One version of the bill, originally introduced by Queens Assemblymember Margaret Markey and State Sen. Tom Duane, granted victims of child sexual assault a longer period of time to press charges by extending the statute of limitations.

The cornerstone of the legislation provides a one−year window from the date of the bill’s enactment for a person to bring a civil action, regardless of the victim’s age, seeking damages for any past instance of child sexual abuse.

The bill would also add five years to the statute of limitations, which is the period of time allowed to file charges for a given crime.

Currently a victim has until age23 to file prosecution charges. Under the Markey⁄Duane bill the victim would have another five years, until age 28.

Under a counter−proposal introduced by Assemblymember Vito Lopez and Sen. Carl Kruger, the language is essentially the same but without the one−year window. The Lopez⁄Kruger bill also adds an additional two years — until the victim is 25 −− to bring civil and criminal prosecution.

Additionally, the bill includes public schools and not just private institutions that would be liable for damages.

Markey spokesperson Mike Armstrong said that since the original bill was introduced, Markey added two amendments, one explicitly including the public sector in the one−year window to bring a civic action, and the other limiting those eligible to seek damages to people 53 years of age and under.

Armstrong said Duane refused to support the amendments so Markey found another co−sponsor in Sen. Ruth Hassell−Thompson.

In the meantime, the Senate has been deadlocked over which political party will control it, leaving the matter up in the air on the Senate side, Armstrong said.

“We are waiting for the Senate to be resolved and Thompson to advance the bill, and the Assembly will again take it up in a special session expected at the end of September,” said Armstrong.

Assemblymember Dov Hikind said that while both bills made it out of committee, neither was taken up for a vote before the session ended.

Hikind said that while he supports the Markey bill, he would have liked to see more of a compromise between the two bills so something got passed.

“The saddest part of all this is we walked away with nothing, which is extremely painful to the victims,” he said.

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