ILLINOIS — Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants to erase the statute of limitations allowing felony child sex offenders to evade justice. Madigan’s office represents the people of Illinois in criminal cases, and described why it can be so difficult for some victims to come forward.
“They’re very dangerous, and with children, it will come as no surprise that it is almost always somebody in a position of trust,” she says.
Madigan introduced a witness who testified in a federal trial against former Republican Speaker of the House and Illinois State Assembly member Dennis Hastert.
“Hastert had the power and the prestige and the law on his side,” said Scott Cross, a 52-year old banker from Wheaton.
“But today, as survivors of his abuse, we are stronger than him. Hastert is rightly in prison and for the rest of history he will be a national disgrace. Hastert’s only political legacy should be that his crimes and complete lack of repentance led to a change in the laws that empower survivors over their sexual abusers.”
A growing number of state legislators are closing in on a bill which would increase the likelihood of bringing child sex offenders to justice, regardless of when the crime was committed.
Madigan made the trip to Springfield to introduce Cross’ gut-wrenching testimony in front of a Senate committee hearing focusing on criminal law.
Thirty-six other states have already done away with statutes of limitations for sex offenders who abuse children.
Scott Cross waited nearly four decades before he came out and told the public about the unspeakable abuse he suffered at the hands of his former wrestling coach.
As hard as it may be for others, Cross urges them to come forward and report any abuse to authorities because he says it could prevent another innocent person from becoming a victim.
The attorney general’s testimony included some grim numbers.
“Nationally, studies have consistently shown that 25% of girls and 16% of boys will be sexually assaulted or abused before the age of 18,” she reported. “In fact, over 1600 children were referred to child advocacy centers in Illinois in fiscal year 2016.”
Nationwide, a number of advocacy groups have pressured lawmakers to write tougher laws against sexual predators. The movement reached a boiling point after Stanford University swimmer and convicted rapist Brock Turner was released from prison after only three months.
At least for now, Madigan says she’s not focused on increasing mandatory minimum sentences for felony child sex offenders.
“Because if you increase the mandatory minimum sentences, you still don’t necessarily capture the fact that crimes are being committed and we still have the ability to investigate or prosecute those crimes because the statute of limitations has ended.”
The bill was originally filed and sponsored by Senator Scott Bennett (D) of Champaign.
This bill would not alter the burden of proof nor would it lower the threshold of evidence prosecutors need in order to bring charges against a defendant.
However, it could mean an end to the era where sex offenders would escape justice simply by waiting long enough.