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Change in Law Eliminates Statute of Limitations in Future Rape Cases

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Altemio Sanchez is charged with murder. But the public was shocked to learn that the man alleged to be the Bike Path Rapist will never face charges for several rapes. But the statute of limitations that caused that injustice will never let another rapist off the hook.

News that the suspected killer was finally caught overshadowed the fact that he would never be charged with several rapes. That includes the 1981 rape that led to his capture and others where there was a positive DNA match. They were all beyond the five-year statute of limitations.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark says they argued for years that the law defied common sense.

Clark says, finally last June, state lawmakers were persuaded to eliminate the statute of limitations for rape. That's welcome news to Jessica Pirro with Crisis Services in Buffalo. Many victims, possibly including Bike Path rapist victims, have sought help from the agency. Pirro says, without a ticking clock, they now can give victims hope for justice.

Still, the new law will be little solace for most past victims. The change is not retroactive. It only applies to cases going forward and those still within the five-year window when the new law went into effect. That's a loophole Pirro would like to see state lawmakers eventually correct, too. And she says the Bike Path Rapist case makes a good argument.

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