No statute of limitations on sodomy, Supreme Court rules

Associated Press/December 22, 2004

St. Louis -- Affirming a lower court's stance that no time limit applies to prosecuting someone for sodomy, Missouri's highest court yesterday refused to hear the case of a Roman Catholic priest accused of child sex abuse during the 1970s.

The Missouri Supreme Court's ruling, without comment, upheld a September ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals that reversed a St. Louis judge's determination that too much time had passed for Thomas Graham to be charged with the clergy abuse.

In asking Missouri's high court to hear the case, Graham attorney Art Margulis labeled the matter "of profound significance," suggesting that a ruling unfavorable to his client might spur more prosecutions involving sexual abuse by clergy.

Margulis directed questions about yesterday's ruling to his co-counsel, Christian Goeke, who said, "We expected this was an issue the" Supreme Court "would take up simply because of its widespread ramifications."

No other appeals are planned, Goeke said, "and we'll proceed on the merits and go to trial."

Messages left with Ed Postawko, an assistant St. Louis city prosecutor who heads the office's child sex abuse unit, were not returned.

When the appeals court first ruled against his client in July, Margulis asked that court to reconsider. On Sept. 28, that panel again ruled in the state's favor, declaring that no statute of limitations applied for prosecution of crimes - including sodomy - punishable under Missouri law by death or life imprisonment.

Graham, now 70, was indicted in December 2002 on a charge of performing oral sex on a teenage boy, allegedly between January 1975 and December 1978 in the rectory of the historic Old Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. He was released on bond.

Margulis has said it was unfair to charge a person in such cases so many years after an alleged event, given that potential witnesses die or move away and memories fade over time.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a victims' advocacy group, cheered yesterday's development. "We applaud the high court's wisdom in keeping kids safer," SNAP's David Clohessy said.

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