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The problem with the statute of limitations

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: The problem with the statute of limitations
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Bernie Fine will not face any jury to answer to charges of sexual abuse of young boys. But the leader of one local agency says that is not the equivalent of a finding of innocence. YNN's Bill Carey says the head of Vera House believes this is not a time to let the case fade away.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Randi Bregman says it's all too familiar story for victims of child sexual abuse. By the time they are ready to come forward with their story, the statute of limitations, a legal limit for bringing a charge, has run out. Victims also face challenges from those who believe, after so many years, their stories are not truthful. All of this, she says, plays into the hands of the abuser.

Bregman said, “Many, many survivors and current victims in our community have been told by a perpetrator, no one will believe you. No one will help you. I have more power than you do. You better not ever take that risk. Bad things will come to you. And, if we, as a community, don't stand up for our children, and adult survivors who were victimized as children, then we'll continue to perpetuate sexual abuse in our community.”

That's why Bregman is going public with concerns over the highly publicized case of former SU assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.

Two former ball boys, Bobby Davis and Michael Lang, went public with their story. Both the DA and police chief say they were credible. The chief also believes a story told by Floyd Van Hooser, now serving time in state prison, who, as a young boy, had dealings with Fine. But Fine is a free man.

At the end of an extensive investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office was forced to conclude there were no grounds to bring criminal charges against Bernie Fine. The problem? The statute of limitations. Bregman says she wants to make it clear that "no prosecution" doesn't equal "no wrongdoing."

“And that's why I've been trying to make sure we continue our conversation and don't simply close a chapter and say that Bernie Fine was vindicated by the fact that we have a statute of limitations. Because you can't be vindicated by a statute of limitations,” Bregman said.

Bregman would prefer there be no limits on a child sexual abuse case, but for now, she is supporting legislation in Albany to extend the window of time when victims can seek justice.

Bregman said, “There's just been too many cases, in our own community, where we've seen this fall through. And across the nation. And I think it's our obligation.”

An obligation to victims, who she says, have acted as heroes.

Current state law allows victims of child sexual abuse to seek action for up to five years after they reach the age of 18. The pending legislation in Albany would extend that period to 10 years.

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