N.Y. Senate GOP too busy to fix child-rape law as No. 2 Republican says changing statute is unfair to perverts

By Kenneth Lovett (NY Daily News)
March 31, 2016

ALBANY - The roadblock to justice for countless sex abuse victims in New York is the continued handiwork of Senate Republicans more concerned about the rights of pervs than their accusers - or too busy to even consider reforms.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan through his staff wouldn't even discuss the matter this week despite repeated requests from the Daily News.

"We aren't going to discuss it until after the (state) budget is settled," Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said in an email.

But several Senate GOPers told The News this week they have little appetite to change the law requiring child victims of sex abuse to seek legal recourse before their 23rd birthday.

Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a retired Syracuse lawyer, said the current law strikes a fair balance.

"I believe that there's a purpose for a statute of limitations," DeFrancisco said. "The further back the case is, the more difficult it is for anybody to defend themselves. Witnesses are gone. That's why a statute of limitation is there."

That goes for both criminal and civil cases, he said.

The News, in a series of recent stories, has detailed cases from foster homes, schools and the sports arena where victims have been unable to seek legal recourse because of New York's statute of limitations.

Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 59, a foster dad in Suffolk County, was charged last month with abusing seven children, at least one as young as 8. He hosted as many as 140 kids in the last two decades. Investigators believe there were more victims, but they couldn't press charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) earlier this week told The News he doesn't see an "impetus" to moving the bill this year, though he didn't rule it out completely.

But history suggests a vote is highly unlikely this year.

Three times in the past decade the Assembly has passed a bill sponsored by Queens Democrat Margaret Markey that would not only make it easier for victims to sue, but would also grant a one-year window for those whose statute of limitations had expired to bring a civil lawsuit. The last time the bill cleared the Assembly was in 2008.

But under pressure from the Catholic Church and other religious organizations, the Senate failed to take up the matter each time. Republicans, who control the Senate, don't see that changing this year.

The Markey bill is sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who as a minority party member has virtually no power to bring the bill to the floor without a Republican sign-off.

"It's the right thing to do," Markey said of passing the legislation. "It's about protecting children and victims who have been abused."

Markey told The News she believes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will allow her bill to come to the floor for a vote in her chamber before the legislative session ends in June.

Heastie, immersed in budget talks, had no comment. His spokesman, Michael Whyland, was noncommittal.

"As with any bill, it is something we would discuss with the members of our conference," Whyland said.

Assembly Democrats in recent years have been split over the issue. Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) introduced a competing bill that would allow future cases related to child sexual abuse to be filed until a person is 28, as opposed to the current 23. His bill, which has the support of the Church, does not provide for a one-year window for lawsuits in cases where the statute of limitations has expired.

Responding to a Wednesday Hoylman column in The News pushing for passage of his bill, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, called on the senator to revise the legislation.

The Church not only fears that allowing cases where the statute of limitations has expired to be brought would cause financial ruin for religious groups and nonprofits like the Boy Scouts, but also is unfair since public institutions like schools and foster care agencies are not affected.

Current state law requires victims to file a notice of intent to sue a government entity within 90 days of the incident occurring.

"I implore you to amend your bill on this subject to include all childhood victims: Your bill does not address those who have been abused in the public schools," Donohue wrote.

While Hoylman supports treating private and public institutions the same, he said "it would be wrong to hide behind the issue to block legislation from being passed.

"We should do everything in our power to give all survivors of child sexual abuse their day in court, as well as get predators off the street and behind bars," he said.