Michigan lawmakers reinvigorate push to nearly double sex abuse statute of limitations

Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation that would give victims of sexual abuse more time to sue for damages as the state again seeks to overhaul laws following multiple abuse scandals sexual.

The bill, which was presented to a committee on Tuesday afternoon, would extend the civil statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse from 28 to 52 years. If passed, victims would also have a two-year window to sue retroactively, regardless of the delay. limit.

The new measures would give victims of the late Dr. Robert Anderson of the University of Michigan and others additional time to file lawsuits that were previously barred by the statute of limitations. Government entities could not claim immunity if they knew or should have known of an accused’s past sexual misconduct and failed to intervene.


In 2018, Michigan increased the statute of limitations to 28 years following the conviction of Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of female athletes under the guise of medical treatment, including at Michigan State University.

Advocates say the delay limits justice for many victims who often keep trauma to themselves, citing research that shows many victims don’t come forward until their 50s. Vermont, Maine and Maryland have waived the statute of limitations for prosecutions of child sex crimes.

Much of the reform began after reports across the United States of decades-long abuses by Roman Catholic clergy. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel opened an investigation into sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Church clergy in 2019, which has resulted in eight criminal convictions to date.

Greg D’Alessandro and Brian Hurtekant spoke publicly for the first time Monday with The Associated Press about the abuse they had suffered decades before at the hands of Catholic priests. Both men were unable to file civil lawsuits due to Michigan’s statute of limitations.

D’Alessandro, who is now 45, has accused two priests of sexually abusing him between the ages of 9 and 13 when he was a student in the Detroit metro. D’Alessandro said he had repressed memories of abuse for years and it was only recently, after hours of therapy, that he began to understand what happened to him as a child.

Greg D Lessandro

Sexual assault victims Brian Hurtekant and Greg D’Alessandro testified Monday in support of a bipartisan effort to dramatically extend Michigan’s statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)

“If that’s not the worst thing a human being can do to another, especially a child in the name of God, then I don’t know what is,” D’Alessandro said during a telephone interview.

The two priests, Lawrence Ventline and Timothy Szott, have been identified by the Archdiocese of Detroit as having been credibly charged. Szott, who was sentenced to 18 months probation after pleading no contest to possession of child pornography in 2003, is now dead.

Ventline’s educationally limited counselor license was revoked by a state board in 2019. But Nessel said at the time that “the statute of limitations prohibits us from prosecuting Mr. Ventline for any crime that we believe he may have committed”.

The Associated Press could not reach Ventline for comment on the allegations.

Hurtekant, who is now 56, said his abuse began when he was 13 after his brother died. The priest, James Martin Novak, had overseen his brother’s funeral and acted as his therapist while he treated the grief. The sexual abuse started in sixth grade and continued through ninth grade, Hurtekant said.

In 2019, St. Therese Church in Lansing released a list of 17 priests, including Novak, who had been credibly accused of abusing minors. There were 73 allegations against the priests. Novak could not be reached for comment by the AP.

“We were kids who were raised to be sexually abused,” Hurtekant said. “We deserve our day in court and justice.”


The House committee did not vote on the package on Tuesday after several Democratic lawmakers expressed a desire to change the legislation to eliminate the civil statute of limitations altogether. Jamie White, an attorney representing Hurtekant and D’Alessandro, said they hope to continue working with lawmakers to bring about change.

The package would also create a “survivors bill of rights,” which would, among other things, require survivors to be informed of their right to access lawyers, attorneys, counselors and other support when navigating the reporting process.

This will be the third time the legislation has been introduced in the Michigan Legislative Assembly, but the first since Democrats took full control of the Legislative Assembly and the governor’s office this year.

Backlash has come before from universities, schools, municipalities, businesses and the Catholic Church over the financial implications of facing an unknown number of lawsuits over old allegations.


In a statement provided to the AP, the Catholic Conference of Michigan, the voice of the church in the state for public policy, said it opposes the legislation, saying it would “unfairly force public and private entities to defend the claims of several decades”.

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