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Sexual abuse reporting bills gain momentum in General Assembly

Two bills recently passed the House unanimously that aim to change the state’s statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

Capital News Service

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By Rodney Robinson

Two bills recently passed the House unanimously that aim to change the state’s statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

One bill gives victims a two-year window to file sexual abuse claims, if the statute of limitations have passed. The other extends the statute of limitations in adult civil sexual assault cases from two to 20 years.

House Bill 610 was introduced by Del. Jason S. Miyares, R-Virginia Beach. This bill creates a two-year time period, from after July 1 but before July 1, 2022, in which persons can file a claim for injury from sexual abuse occurring before the age of 18, regardless whether the statute of limitations expired.

“My hope is that this will enable you to have your day in court, and that’s my sincere hope,” Miyares said to victims who have suffered “unspeakable crimes.”

Miyares, a former prosecutor, said that “being in the court system, you can’t help but see” sexual abuse cases. Miyares said that he sponsored the legislation after reading a report from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The report compiled the results of a two-year grand jury investigation into the claims of sexual abuse of children within six Pennsylvania dioceses. Some of the cases included dated back to 30 to 40 years ago and victims were not able to file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired.

“That’s really what first kind of peaked my interest,” Miyares said. “I just thought that was a travesty.”

Miyares introduced a similar bill in 2019. HB 1888 proposed to eliminate the civil statute of limitations for injury resulting from sexual abuse occurring during childhood or incapacity. The bill died in committee. Originally, there was some concern about the 2019 bill being broadly written, Miyares said.

“I looked at how other states have tackled it and saw that a lot of states were doing a temporary, two-year sub gap where they allowed time-barred claims to be filed,” Miyares said. “And I thought two years was probably an appropriate amount of time to get the word out.”

HB 870, introduced by Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, establishes a procedure for victims to come forward in the future and extends the time frame they have to report sexual abuse.

Bourne’s bill allows the accuser 20 years to report sexual abuse that occurs on or after July 1. This expands the statute of limitations to 20 years from when the sexual abuse was discovered, for example in counseling. Currently, this 20-year window applies only if the act occurs while the person is under the age of 18, according to lawyer Eliott Buckner who helped create the bill.

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association is a voluntary bar association with approximately 2,000 members. The group works to improve the state’s justice system.

The VTLA wrote HB 870 and searched for a patron, according to president-elect Buckner. Buckner, a lawyer for the Breit Cantor law firm in Richmond, said he was interested to help prepare a bill like this after an experience with a prospective client. He said his client had “the courthouse doors shut on her” because of the current law.

Buckner said that his client was groomed as a minor and that there were “repeated and specific acts” that mentally and emotionally conditioned her for the sexual abuse that occurred later.

“Because there was no sexual abuse when she was a minor, there was no extension of statute of limitations to bring a claim and there should have been,” Buckner said.

Buckner said his client was never able to have her day in court.

Both bills are now in a Senate judiciary committee.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

Pedestrian struck in hit and run crash on Magnolia Street in Northside

The Richmond Police Department’s Special Operations Division-Traffic Crash Team is investigating a Hit & Run crash that occurred in the late evening yesterday in the City’s Northside.

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The Richmond Police Department’s Special Operations Division-Traffic Crash Team is investigating a Hit & Run crash that occurred in the late evening yesterday in the City’s Northside.

On Thursday evening, February 20, 2020, between 8:50 p.m. and 9:10 p.m., an unidentified vehicle traveling east in the 2200 block of Magnolia Street struck and seriously injured a male pedestrian wearing a yellow and white coat who was walking along Magnolia Street.

The driver of the striking vehicle fled the scene without stopping to render aid with the last known direction of travel as heading east on Magnolia Street towards Mechanicsville Turnpike.

The victim was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in life-threatening condition.

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to call RPD Crash Team Investigator Jarron Peterson at 804-646-1511 or contact Crime Stoppers at 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. You may use the P3 smartphone app. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Police searching for suspect accused of shoplifting at Zest Clothing & Co. in Carytown

The suspect took several items into a fitting room, stuffed them into her purse, and walked out of the store.

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Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify a woman who recently stole items from a clothing store in Carytown.

At approximately 4:10 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, officers responded to Zest Clothing & Co., located at 3140 W Cary Street, for the report of a shoplifting.  The suspect took several items into a fitting room, stuffed them into her purse, and walked out of the store.

Detectives believe she then came back the next weekend and stole from the store again.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Third Precinct Detective D. Osbourne at (804) 646-1069 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Arrest made in fatal Chamberlayne Avenue hit and run involving pedestrian

Lawrence C. Smith, 65, of Chattanooga, TN was arrested last night and has been charged with the felony hit and run, expired registration, and failure to yield right of way.

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The Richmond Police Department’s Special Operations Division-Traffic Crash Team has made an arrest in a fatal hit-and-run that happened earlier this month in the city’s Northside.

Lawrence C. Smith, 65, of Chattanooga, TN was arrested last night and has been charged with the felony hit and run, expired registration, and failure to yield right of way.

At approximately 10 p.m. on Friday, January 17, officers responded to the 2300 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for the report of a crash.  Lawrence Smith’s vehicle collided with another vehicle, which then hit several parked cars and a pedestrian. Smith fled the scene of the crash.

The pedestrian – identified as Grayland A. Brooks, 62, of the 1400 block of N 30th Street – was taken to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Hit and Run Investigator J. Deboard at (804) 646-1709.

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