Only 1 NYC district attorney supports fixing state law to help child abuse victims seek justice

By Stephen Rex Brown (NY Daily News)
April 20, 2016

One of the city's district attorneys is in favor of extending the criminal statute of limitations on charges of sexual abuse of children — but the others refused to take a stand.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s support of overhauling the oft-maligned law barring criminal charges after the victim turns 23 years old comes as the state Senate considers a bill to do just that.

“We have long been supportive of extending the criminal statute of limitations for young victims of sexual abuse,” Kevin Ryan, a Brown spokesman, told the Daily News.

But other district attorneys were more reluctant to tackle the issue.

The offices of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark all referred The News to the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.

The association occasionally issues position statements on legislation under consideration in Albany.

But when it comes to victims of child sex abuse holding their abusers accountable, the association does not plan to take an official position, according to Executive Director Robyn Pangi.

“People want to be able to bring these prosecutions, but as you know, a lot of these cases are 30 or 40 years old. It’s very difficult to collect evidence, find appropriate witnesses and build a case,” Pangi said.

She vowed that district attorneys were committed to doing everything in their power, whatever the law may be.

“We certainly want to ensure the victims feel we will be able to prosecute their case effectively,” she said.

Doug Auer, a spokesman for Staten Island DA Michael McMahon, echoed that sentiment.

“Regardless of whether the statute is changed, we will continue to do our utmost to do justice for the victims of these crimes,” Auer said.

Individual district attorneys do often take stands on certain issues — just not this one.

In recent months Vance has been among the leading voices in the city calling for law enforcement to have access to encrypted smartphones.

The DAs’ reluctance to take an official position comes as the Senate considers a bill to do away with the statute of limitations to bring criminal cases or civil suits in cases involving adults abused as children.

Previous efforts to reform the law have failed as GOP lawmakers have signaled they are against the legislation. Advocates say that is in large part due to the opposition of the Catholic Church and a consortium of yeshivas.

The issue came to the fore recently after Suffolk County authorities charged Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu with sexually abusing seven foster children that had been in his care.

Authorities said at the time they couldn’t bring charges in connection to additional victims of Gonzales-Mugaburu, 59, because of the statute of limitations.

He has pleaded not guilty.