Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Understanding the Statute of Limitations: Alleged Bernie Fine Victims Found "Credible" But No Charges

Today, District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick said that former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine would not be charged with child sexual abuse. The reason - the accusers Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Mike Lang ran out of time. 

While not saying whether Fine was indeed guilty of the crimes, Fitzpatrick did characterize the allegations as credible.

"It is not my place to pronounce Bernie Fine guilty of anything. It is my place, however, especially in light of recent events, to affirm that these two victims are believable" Fitzpatrick said.

Limitation Period

In the state of New York, the statute of limitations for a sex act against a child expires 5 years after the child's18th birthday. Davis is now 39 years old and Lang is 45.

However, there is no statute of limitations if the sexual abuse is severe enough to constitute sexual conduct against a child in the first degree. To qualify as first degree abuse as per the statute, there would need to be "sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct, anal sexual conduct or aggravated sexual contact".

It seemed, however, based upon the taped telephone call between Laurie Fine and Bobby Davis, as well as Davis' interview with ESPN, that there may not have been first degree abuse.

One more point - the statute of limitations can be different from state to state. So if abuse occurred in another state, you would need to look at that state's statute of limitations. For example, in Pennsylvania, a victim has until his or her 50th birthday to file charges.

To say the Fine is out of the woods is premature. If more victims come forward or if abuse occurred in another state, Fine could be pursued.

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