Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on Illinois lawmakers Wednesday to eliminate the statute of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children.
Madigan, along with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, believes child victims of sexual assault and abuse should be given time to process and report abuses to authorities.
Her appeal comes in the wake of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert being sentenced to 15 months in prison for bank fraud Wednesday. He attempted to use hush money to cover up sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s, when he was a teacher at a Yorkville high school.
Hastert was not convicted of any sex crimes as a result of the statute of limitations, although a handful of past victims came forward during the trial.
"When a prosecutor cannot indict an offender for these heinous acts because the statute of limitations has run, it raises serious moral, legal and ethical questions,” Madigan said. “We have long supported extending the time period for prosecutors to file sexual assault and abuse charges, and we urge the Legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations on all sex crimes involving children."
Madigan also told Ward Room Wednesday about her push to eliminate the statute of limitations in these cases.
"There's no statute of limitations for murder," Madigan said. "In Illinois, there's no statute of limitations for the Consumer Fraud Act. There should not be a statute of limitations for sex crimes against children."
In January of 2014, Illinois law shifted and the statute of limitations was done away with for sex crimes committed against minors. It does not apply to crimes committed before the law was passed.
The previous statute of limitations came into effect in 2013 and gave a 20-year prosecution window, starting when victims turned 18. That move was part of a series of extensions that started in the 1980s, coming after Hastert’s alleged crimes.
"We should never be in a position where somebody's 40, 50, 60 years old and they come forward to tell what happened to them and they can't seek justice," Madigan told Ward Room.
Madigan’s release did not mention Hastert by name.
Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Ward Room that she supports Madigan's push.
"I think it's time, Illinois can do better." Blaine said. "We should and we can make people like Dennis Hastert be indicted and not allow them to get away with their crimes."