Time will no longer stop prosecutions of sex crime against children in Illinois.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law Friday that eliminates the statute of limitations on child sex crimes.
It was legislation pushed by St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, who traveled to Springfield and Chicago to lobby for the bill.
“There is no limit to the pain and suffering the victims of childhood sexual abuse endure, so there should be no limit on our ability to seek justice on their behalf,” said Kelly, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District in Illinois.
“Sex crimes against children are a horribly tragic violation of trust that can take a lifetime to recover from,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who also supported the change. “This new law will ensure that survivors are provided with the time they need to heal and seek justice.”
Prosecuting old cases of sexual molestation may be difficult, but, Kelly said, not impossible. There are other ways, Kelly said, to authenticate abuse, such as letters, emails, phone calls, even eyewitness testimony.
“This law doesn’t change our burden of proof, which is beyond a reasonable doubt, but it does allow victims to come forward without the fear of an artificial deadline,” Kelly said.
Before the change, Illinois law required that felony sex crimes against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old. The exceptions were if the crimes were committed after Jan. 1, 2014, and there was corroborating physical evidence or a mandated reporter, such as a teacher or doctor, failed to report suspected abuse.
Cases that are now within the statute of limitation can now be brought to police and prosecuted without the time limit on the case.
Lisa Madigan; state Sen. Scott Bennett, the bill’s sponsor; and Scott Cross, a survivor, and joined Kelly to testify before the committee.
The bill was introduced after former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, once considered one of the nation’s most powerful politicians. Hastert was never prosecuted for the sex crimes because too much time had elapsed.
Hastert, 74, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for a bank fraud case linked to allegations he sexually abused teen boys more than 30 years ago in Yorkville, Illinois. Hastert was convicted of using the money to pay off a sex abuse accuser who was blackmailing him.
State Rep. Tom Cross, who sponsored the bill, is the older brother to Scott Cross, one of Hastert’s victims. Hastert mentored Tom Cross politically.
There are no statute of limitations in Illinois for murder, voluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, arson, treason, forgery and child pornography production. Thirty-six states and the federal government have removed the criminal statute of limitations for some or all sex crimes committed against children.