Priest Child Sex Abuse Laws Continue to Change in Florida

The Legal Examiner (law firm blog)

January 27, 2020

By Joseph H. Saunders

At a 2018 press conference, then Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a statewide investigation into child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic priests saying, “Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the Church and a threat to society,”

Shortly before the investigation was announced 15 victims had already contacted authorities. Now after more than a year victims are continuing to come forward yet the state has been tight lipped about the number of tips reported through the statewide hotline. With an estimated 2 million Catholics in the Florida, I expect the number of potential cases still to be reported to be substantial.

Consider just some the recent history we know. Here in Tampa Bay the Catholic diocese, from 1996-2006, paid nearly $3 million in settlements to people abused by church representatives. Most, but not all, of the cases were settled in in 2004 when the diocese agreed to pay over $1 million to a dozen men who accused former priest Robert Schaeufele of sexually abusing them between the ages of 9 and 14 beginning in the mid-1970s. Schaeufele served 12 years after he pleaded guilty to charges he sexually abused three boys. There were over two-dozen credible sex abuse allegations against the priest, but most couldn’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out. Schaeufele used the Florida statute of limitations to his advantage and got away with raping and abusing dozens of young boys. His crimes should have earned him a life sentence; he was released after only 12 years.

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