Arrest of Out of State Pastor for Child Sex Crimes Underscores Legislators Request to AG to Investigate New Abuse Claims
February 21, 2012
Statement by John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director
The former pastor of a Michigan church, Harold Markham, who was arraigned in Marinette County Court on Monday on charges of repeated sexual assault of a child in Wisconsin, illustrates the obvious, but overlooked fact that a significant number of sex offenders cross state lines. If convicted of the charges Markham faces 41 years in prison. Markham, a resident of Wisconsin, was working as a pastor at Norway Baptist Church in nearby Norway, Michigan. Sexual predators, of course, likely have more than one victim, and it is possible that Markham, like many child predators, has victims residing in multiple states.
Significantly, Pastor Markham is not the only out of state offender who has faced justice in Wisconsin in recent years. Even though Markham’s alleged offenses are more recent, the state of Wisconsin has a little known “fleeing sex offender law” which allows prosecution of sexual predators who commit child rape or sexual assault and then flee the state, regardless of when their crimes occurred. If there is time left on the criminal statute, in other words, and the offender crosses state lines, the time left on the statute effectively “tolls” or “freezes”. This provision, which was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2008, has resulted in the prosecution of at least 22 clergy during the past decade.
The significance of Wisconsin’s fleeing sex offender law was highlighted this week by a group of Wisconsin legislators who have issued a letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen urging him to launch an investigation into the reported 8,000 child sexual assaults that were perpetrated against children in the archdiocese of Milwaukee. The crimes, documented in claims filed by victim/survivors in the archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case, reveal that there are at least 100 alleged offenders, 75 of them priests, who have not been publically identified by church officials. It is likely that a number of these offenders were transferred out of Wisconsin before the statute of limitations expired on their criminal acts and they could still face prosecution.
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