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Barns Before Kids? 

by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & or the second year in a row, a Washington state Senate committee has refused to push a bill that would remove time limits on prosecuting people who sexually abuse children. And even though 25 senators signed onto the concept this year, Sen. Adam Kline, chair of the Judiciary Committee, thinks the bill won't pass next year either.

"I don't see support for it," Kline says. The Seattle Democrat has several reservations about SB 5817, a bill to remove the statutes of limitations on prosecution of most sex crimes against children, but his main objection comes down to precedent.

"The crimes on the current list all involve death -- murder in the first degree or an arson that results in a death," Kline says.

Opening this to sex crimes, Kline says, sets the stage for the worst kind of sound-bite politics. "The Senate's happy warriors of the 'tough-on-crime crowd' would duplicate that immediately, and in a few years we will have no statutes of limitations for prosecuting jaywalking." In fact, Kline says, half the Senate signed on to 5817 because it's political candy to appear tough on pedophiles without also raising taxes to fund courts and jails.

Sen. Chris Marr strongly disagrees with Kline's take. "At the core of this is, how does one view sex abuse of a child. It can be viewed as the equivalent of the death of a child -- a killing of the soul," the first-term Spokane Democrat says.

But partisan game playing and opposition from the state's prosecuting attorneys clouded Marr's observation.

"I'm angry with frustration. The Senate passed a bill that protects vintage barns. They can't protect kids but they can protect vintage barns," says Don Brockett, former Spokane County prosecutor who has lobbied hard to lift limitations on child sex crimes.

It is increasingly apparent that children who are raped or molested often cannot confront the act until decades later -- long after current criminal clocks have run out.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys objects, citing a potential flood of cases based on faulty memories and scant evidence. Marr and Brockett say it is unlikely many victims will push for criminal charges decades later and that weak cases would not be prosecuted anyway.

Lobbyists for a coalition of sex abuse victims groups say they'd rather have civil limitations eased so victims can sue abusers.

Marr says he will keep trying. "The last thing we need to do is tell someone they don't count. That their offender has crossed some magic line and there is nothing we can do now."
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