Area lawmakers rally to abolish statute of limitations on sex abuse charges

By Lauren Hensley
March 04, 2016

EBENSBURG, Pa.- Local lawmakers rallied at the Ebensburg courthouse Friday, asking for change. They want to abolish the statute of limitations on sex abuse charges. This is following a grand jury report uncovered widespread sex abuse and its cover up across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

"These laws could have been passed 15 years ago;And we might not be in this position we are today. We could have saved hundreds of lives. Legislators have failed to act, and that is a fact," said Rep. Mark Rozzi, (D)-126th District Berks Co.

Rozzi said this mission is personal. The 147-page grand jury report brought him back to his own nightmare. He was sexual abused repeatedly at the hands of a priest in 1983.

"I was never the same again," Rozzi said.

By the time Rozzi came to terms with his abuse, he was out of time to pursue criminal charges or a civil suit. The statute of limitations ran out for Rozzi, and it's run out for most of the victims in the grand jury report, which why he is taking a stand.

Rep. Frank Burns and state Sen. John Wozniak stood united with Rozzi on Friday asking for change. They are asking lawmakers to support House Bill 655, which would eliminate the statute of limitations, and House Bill 951, which would create a two-year window for past victims to file civil suits.

But they said it won't be easy. Over the years, similar legislation has been discussed, but it's been meet with a lot of resistance.

6News asked Bishop Mark Bartchak on Thursday if he supported abolishing the statute of limitations. He replied, "The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, for which I am member of, handles the public policy. So I would encourage you to contact them for further information."

6News contacted the PCC and a spokesperson said, "The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference holds the same position as the Task Force for Child Protection that was appointed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky. .The task force recommended a sweeping overhaul of state child protection statutes that resulted in more than 20 laws being passed, but it also took a close look at Pennsylvania's statute of limitations and recommended that it not be changed."

6News took the bishops' remarks to Friday's rally, and state representative Mark Rozzi responded, "All I can say to the bishop is look the in mirror, and for one time, do what is right her," he said. "I have never seen a priest of bishop stand up for the children, Rozzi said."

In the meantime they are asking supporters to reach out to the local representative to show their support and encourage all victims to come forward no matter how much time has gone by.


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