Push continues to end statute of limitations for child sex crimes

HARRISBURG, Pa.--  A call to action at the Capitol on Tuesday.

"We have an opportunity to help victims today," (D) Rep. Mark Rozzi said. "Not 30 years from now."

Rep. Rozzi is talking about House Bill 1947, which looks to abolish the statute of limitations on child sex crimes in criminal cases. It also looks to allow victims until age 50 to come forward in civil suits.

"We're looking for justice," Debbie McIlmail said.

Her son Sean was a victim of child sex abuse at their church from grades 6-8. McIlmail said her son didn't come forward until he was 25. He died a year later. When he did come out about the abuse, Sean told his parents the abuser killed his soul.

"They stole my innocence before I even knew what it was, dad," Sean's father Michael McIlmail said, quoting his son.

Needless to say, they are frustrated the bill isn't already law.

"They're murdering these children's souls. There should be no statute of limitations on that," Michael McIlmail said.

"The two aspects of this bill are it's constitutionally and its practical dimension of how far can we go back in time can we go and rely on memories, particularly when the victims were children at the time," attorney Bill Costopoulos said.

He and Rep. Rozzi said the courts will have to determine if the bill is constitutional.

As for victims' testimony decades after the alleged abuse, Constopoulos said a defense attorney can challenge that in court.

"The recollection of a victim 30 years after the fact is legitimate cross examination," he said.

"I don't know one person we've met over the three years we've been dealing with this that said they really can't remember, unless they've really repressed it," McIlmail said.

Costopoulos said if the bill becomes law, the courts will figure out how it works.

"You have the courts that deal with the constitutional challenges and the courts that will deal with the factual concerns," he said.

Rep. Rozzi said the bill should pass the House with ease. He said it passed in the spring but the Senate sent it back after they revised it. Rep. Rozzi said he had bipartisan support then and said it should be in the Senate in early October.