Giving Predators a Pass: the Case of Father James Williams, Ex-president of Chaminade High School, Underscores the Urgency of Statute-of-limitations Reform
New York Daily News
May 17, 2016
|Father Williams (ANDERSON, WILLIE)|
The Nassau County district attorney was legally barred from filing a sex abuse charge against a priest who served as president of a prominent Long Island boys high school — demonstrating once more that New York’s statute of limitations can be a predator’s best friend.
A former student told the DA in 2015 that Father James Williams, ex-president of Chaminade High School, had abused him in 2011. Since the alleged conduct — denied by Williams — occurred more than two years earlier, the statute ruled out a criminal case.
The unidentified student, who is said to have been 18 at the time of the incident or incidents, reportedly preferred not to file a criminal complaint even if the law had given him the power. The point is that he and other alleged victims should have the opportunity to do so if they wish.
According to the district attorney, Williams’ reputed actions amounted to misdemeanor sex abuse. New York’s Penal Law includes only three relevant sexually related misdemeanors.
One offense is forcible touching, meaning that someone “forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.”
The second offense is second degree sexual abuse, which entails manually touching someone “who is incapable of consent” — perhaps, for example, by reason of being dead drunk.
The third offense is third degree sexual abuse, which entails manually touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched.
The common element in each crime is the type of manual molestation committed by many pedophiles and other predators — the kind of perversion that leaves many victims with deep emotional and psychological scars.
New York has eliminated the statute of limitations for other categories of sex crimes: rape in the first degree, forcible anal and oral sex, the insertion of objects into an orifice and two or more acts of intercourse or oral sex with a minor under 13 years old.
But following the pattern of leniency toward misdemeanor manual sex acts, a predator who commits the felony of repeatedly molesting a child under 13 can take advantage of a five-year statute of limitations that starts when the victim reaches 18.
Since many such victims struggle to come to grips with how trusted adults betrayed them, let alone to gain the strength and savvy to bring charges, molesters can get free passes.
In Williams case, Chaminade and the Long Island Catholic diocese brought in law enforcement swiftly and appear to have investigated vigorously. Williams’ priestly order, finding the charges credible, has defrocked him.
His case came to light as the Daily News and abuse victims who have been denied justice are pressing the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo for statute of limitation reforms.
If Williams’ alleged victim had wanted to proceed, he would have joined the thousands who have seen their victimizers go free. That’s why the Legislature and Cuomo must extend or eliminate the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors, starting with molestation.