LINCOLN, Neb. — In November the Nebraska attorney generals office unveiled a bombshell report that showed widespread sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the state.
ATTORNEY GENERAL UNVEILS REPORT SHOWING EXTENSION ABUSE BY NEBRASKA CLERGY
While their stories were told, the victims were not given a chance to see their abusers held responsible and now a proposed piece of legislation is hoping to change that.
The investigation into clergy abuse began in 2018 but the concerns about potential abuse were known by legislators long before the Attorney General's investigation was launched.
“I actually became interested in this in the mid 2000s when I was a state senator but I couldn’t find any information. This report that started in 2018 gave me that foundation to see if we could change some of the statutes,” said Pahls
With the report in hand, Pahls feels he has enough evidence to propose a new bill to remove the statute of limitations on sex assault cases.
Pahls said he isn’t sure yet if his bill would cover previous sex assault cases or just new ones moving forward and that removing the statutes for much older cases could run into constitutional issues but legal experts said even if statutes are removed, there will be challenges prosecuting the older cases.
“In part its practical witnesses die, people's memory fade, people move away and you don’t know where they are when a prosecution is brought. The feeling is that you shouldn’t bring a prosecution many years later and then a defendant says I have a witness who could say I was somewhere else but I don’t know where that person is anymore we have lost touch,” said Jo Potuto, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
SURVIVOR OF CLERGY ABUSE SPEAKS OUT HOPING TO PROVIDE SU[[PRT FOR OTHER VICTIMS
Pahls said he has consulted with several national and local organizations on the bill and has received plenty of support to introduce it.
His office has also reached out to the Catholic Diocese to inform them about the bill but Pahls said he doesn’t expect their support.
“I am assuming the insurance companies and the Catholic Church would talk with us but I don’t think they will be in agreement with what we are trying to do, that’s my perception at the moment."
Right now the bill has only been proposed and it wont see serious discussion until it is introduced in the upcoming legislative session in January.