Burns to child sexual abusers: 'We’re coming after you'

Cambria lawmaker vows to help change law

HARRISBURG, March 14 – Reiterating a pledge made in the wake of a grand jury report documenting rampant child sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, state Rep. Frank Burns today joined a cadre of lawmakers who implored their peers to change the state’s outmoded statute of limitations laws for such crimes.

On the heels of a similar event he organized at the Cambria County Courthouse, Burns, D-Cambria, participated in a Capitol news conference centered on building support for passage of legislation that would provide a retroactive two-year window for victims to file a civil suit, and would eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitations completely for future cases.

"When that grand jury report came out … it devastated our community. It sent shock waves," said Burns, a 1994 graduate of Bishop McCort High School who noted that he was a student there when accused child molester Brother Stephen Baker, who later committed suicide, taught at the school.

"This hits home for me. Although I was never abused, my friends and classmates were," Burns continued. "Since our news conference (back home), four people have called my office to report being abused. It is heartbreaking. I will stand with each and every one of these people here. The message is clear: if you sexually abuse children, we’re coming after you."

Today’s speakers supporting the legislation – H.B. 951 and H.B. 655 – included Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Attorney General Kathleen Kane, and state Reps. Tom Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila.; Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny; and Mark Rozzi, D-Berks.

DePasquale said other lawmakers need to muster the courage to stand up to special interests, and said listening to "lame excuse after lame excuse" on why the law can’t be changed "will make you want to vomit."

Gainey said the statute of limitations reform "should be a piece of legislation that’s easy to pass" if legislators truly want to protect children, but Murt, the prime sponsor of H.B. 951, said it’s currently "bottled up" in the House Judiciary Committee, where he and others have been "trying to get it set free."