By Edgar Sandoval, Shayna Jacobs and Larry Mcshane (NY Daily News)
March 28, 2016
The law couldn’t protect the adopted son of an accused pedophile during eight years of sexual abuse — or after he finally revealed the details of his secret torment.
The 30-year-old victim discovered recently that his sordid tale was useless to police or prosecutors under New York State’s oft-maligned statute of limitations law.
“The detectives told me they couldn’t do anything about my case, because it’s old,” said the frustrated man. “It made me angry. ... How can someone rape children and not face consequences later?”
The law requiring victims to come forward by age 23 with their abuse charges means the man’s foster father, Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, can’t be charged with abusing him.
Gonzales-Mugaburu, 59, has been charged with sexual misconduct, child endangerment and abusing a pet dog — crimes with a strict statute of limitations.
He also allegedly had sex with one of his female dogs while one of the foster kids watched. Gonzales-Mugaburu faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on the 17-count indictment.
But Gonzales-Mugaburu has already dodged charges leveled by two other accusers, foster kids placed in his creepy care on Long Island, sources said.
Making matters worse, Gonzales-Mugaburu had been branded a child molester nine times, starting as early as 1998 — but kids kept being sent to his lair, sources said.
Investigators could never substantiate the complaints.
But advocates for eliminating limits on civil and criminal cases for child sexual abuse believe this latest case could shine a spotlight on their fight for change and accountability.
“New York State is the worst in the nation in defending our children, with the weakest laws,” said Mark Meyer Appel, founder of the child advocacy group Voice of Justice.
“Somebody who gets abused — age 16, 15, 14 — it takes a long time to come out and say, ‘Hey, I was abused in a church or a yeshiva.’ It takes a long time. There’s guilt, embarrassment, denial.”
Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law, echoed Appel’s criticism of the existing state law.
New York ranks among the worst states in the nation when it comes to creating a legal window for abuse survivors, landing in the frightful four with Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi, she said.
“It’s really the hall of shame,” said Hamilton. “At first, when we started talking about statute of limitations, most people didn’t know what they were.
“As time went on, people started talking. Now the odds go up every year for passage.”
Currently, the statute of limitation for both civil and criminal cases applies when an accuser turns 23 — five years after his or her 18th birthday.
There are no statutes limiting the time for prosecution on any cases of first-degree rape, first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and the rape of a child younger than 13.
In neighboring Connecticut, victims are given a 30-year window — up to age 48 — to file a claim against the perpetrator or the institution involved.
Gonzales-Mugaburu hosted 140 foster kids in his homes over the past two decades before his Suffolk County arrest March 18.
He’s already avoided extra criminal charges because two victims were past the statute of limitations, Suffolk County prosecutors said.
Authorities were looking for more victims — and that number was likely to increase.
The bill was first introduced in 2006 by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens), who has reintroduced the proposed law another half-dozen times.
But each time, the proposal was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Criminal defense attorney Sam Braverman said the issue is trying to address both the rights of the defendant and the accuser.
“It’s a balancing act,” said Braverman. “The idea is that it’s unfair to ask somebody to come up with a defense for a crime ... years later if they had nothing to do with it. The ability to mount a defense disappears.”
Former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland, now in private practice as a defense lawyer, agreed. Saland noted an extended statute of limitations could compromise the defense of a suspect due to deaths of witnesses, unavailable evidence and faded memories.
On the other hand, Saland said, the system shouldn’t prevent victims from getting justice.
“To close the reportable window for cases involving a voiceless child, an abuser who is in a position of power, authority or trust, or another other unique reason why conduct is not reported, would be a horrendous injustice,” he said.
Hamilton said the Catholic Conference and Agudath Yisroel of America have led the so-far successful fight against passage of the bill.
Dennis Poust, director of communications for the conference, said his group’s opposition was not intended to spare the church from additional lawsuits and expensive settlements.
The proposed bill would create differing standards for suing private institutions, like the church, than public institutions like the city or the school system.
“If it’s a good idea for the church, it’s a good idea for the city and the public schools,” said Poust.
Appel believes the church, along with private schools and other institutions, are more concerned with protecting their wallets than doing the right thing.
“If this bill were to pass, and we were to go back and revisit these cases, it would probably cost the Catholic Church $2 billion in New York — and they couldn’t afford it,” he said.
Mayor de Blasio, acknowledging he was unfamiliar with the nuances of the issue, offered tepid support for the change. “We have to do everything all the time to protect our children,” the mayor said last week. “I’m not familiar enough with the statute of limitations. Broadly, I want to make sure that anyone who is a danger, we can get and we can get them away from our children.”