Lawmaker pushing to change statute of limitations in criminal cases

July 24, 2017

[with video]

A local priest was charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy more than 25 years ago and prosecutors say because of the time that has passed, they're limited on the charges they can file.

One lawmaker says he's trying to change that.

Retired priest John T. Sweeney last served as pastor at the Holy Family parish in West Newton before the diocese was made aware of this investigation and removed him.

One member told Channel 11 off-camera she doesn't believe he would do something to harm a child.

Another woman, whose grandkids went there, now wants answers.

“These people are there and they're supposed to give hope to these children and they're taking it away,” said Diane Konopka.

Sweeney is charged with sexually abusing a boy in 1991 and 1992 while he was pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Lower Burrell.

The boy is now 35 years old and Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he wanted to file more charges, but couldn't because of the victim's age.

“It's important to note that we would have charged him with additional counts, but the statute of limitations had already expired on those other charges of indecent assault and corruption of the morals of minors,” Shapiro said, as he called for change.

State Rep. Joe Petrarca of the 55th District says there is legislation right now to remove the statute of limitations in criminal cases.

“We changed it to stiffen penalties regarding sex predators,” Petrarca said.

Similar legislation came through last session, but never got passed.


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