Goodell Cosponsors Bipartisan Child Protection Act

In response to deep concerns that the Catholic Church covered-up sex abuse allegations and re-assigned offending priests to other parishes, state Assemblyman Andy Goodell has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand mandatory reporting requirements, eliminate the criminal statute of limitation for prosecuting child sex abuse cases, and increase the civil statute of limitation by five years to age 28.

The legislation, entitled the Child Protection Act, was cosponsored by Goodell in both 2017 and 2018. It has 10 Democrat cosponsors and 8 Republican co-sponsors, and Goodell is seeking more legislators to cosponsor the legislation.

“I am hopeful that this important legislation will move forward in the next legislative session,” Goodell said. “The failure of the Catholic Church hierarchy to report child sex abuse to law enforcement and promptly remove offending priests resulted in many more innocent victims. This legislation would help prevent a cover-up from occurring again in the future.”

To help the victims of child sex abuse who did not come forward within the expanded statute of limitation, Goodell also supports a proposal by state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, to create a dedicated victim compensation fund to be administered by the state Comptroller and funded by bank settlement payments. In this manner, victims of child sex abuse can receive appropriate compensation in a fast and efficient manner, without incurring huge legal fees.

Although Goodell supports eliminating the statute of limitation for criminal prosecutions, he voted against legislation that would extend until age 50 the statute of limitation for civil lawsuits by alleged victims of sex abuse.

“The law should encourage victims to come forward as quickly as possible so that the victims can receive the help and services they need and the abuser can be identified and stopped from abusing new victims,” said Goodell. A statute of limitation that runs for decades does not encourage victims to come forward quickly, and would result in more innocent children becoming victims.

Goodell also noted that a statute of limitation for civil lawsuits that extends until the alleged victim is 50 years old could be a bonanza for lawyers, who could reap huge fees by bringing lawsuits against schools, municipalities, or others after the defendant and defense witnesses are no longer available or the records have been lost or destroyed.

A large civil judgment against a school based on alleged sex abuse that occurred decades earlier could create a financial crisis resulting in fewer resources for current students, teacher layoffs, and higher property taxes.

On the other hand, a dedicated victim compensation fund administered by the State Comptroller would reduce legal fees and ensure victims are fairly compensated, while protecting schools, municipalities, taxpayers, and others from claims based on alleged abuse that occurred decades earlier. The abuser could still be arrested and prosecuted under Goodell’s approach.

“The Child Protection Act and a dedicated compensation fund represent a balanced bipartisan approach to this serious issue, and I will continue to fight for their passage,” said Goodell.