After family tragedy, state representative fights to end statute of limitations for felony sex crimes

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For Representative Dan Griffey, House Bill 1234 is deeply personal.

Year after year, session after session, the Republican representing Allyn, Wash., has tried and failed to pass legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for certain felony sex crimes. HB 1234, set to have a public hearing Tuesday in Olympia, marks the fourth year Griffey has introduced such a bill for consideration.

A father and husband to two sexual abuse survivors, Griffey spoke with tears in his eyes as he explained what it would mean to finally see his effort prevail.

“It means the world,” he said Tuesday on “Q13 News This Morning.”

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“The pain that (survivors) feel every time they talk about this is just too much to bear. My wife asked this year if maybe … this would be the year that she didn’t have to go bleed her heart in front of the world. I hope it is.”

Griffey has been open about the trauma experienced by both his wife and daughter.

He explained Tuesday how his daughter was “raped and left for dead in Alaska, working in the fishing industry.”

“It’s just by the grace of God we have her,” he said.

His wife, also a survivor, “was tortured by her step-monster.”

“They’re the first people, and then thousands of people after I started running the bills started getting ahold of me. So, I tell everybody that my extended family grows every day that somebody hears about our renewed effort.”

This session, Griffey has introduced two versions of his bill, both of which are scheduled for public hearings Tuesday in the House Public Safety Committee.

House Bill 1234, Griffey’s preference, would eliminate the statute of limitations outright for felony sex crimes such as rape, child molestation, incest, and commercial sex abuse of a minor.

House Bill 1231, a pared down version, would allow for the crimes of child rape and first-degree child molestation to be charged at any point after being committed.

Griffey said there does seem to be movement on a separate compromise this year that he believes survivors would support as a good first step. It would set the statute of limitations at 20 years across the board and eliminate the one-year reporting requirement for certain offenses.

“When I want to know, ‘Is there a way we can move on this thing?’ I ask (the survivors),” Griffey said about the potential for accepting a compromise.

While Griffey’s legislation has passed twice in the House of Representatives, it has stopped short of getting a vote in the Senate.

Senate Law and Justice Committee Chair Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) has expressed opposition to the effort in the past.

“Human beings deserve to go on with their lives,” Senator Pedersen said of perpetrators last session in an interview with the Seattle Weekly. “We have statutes of limitation in every area of the law with the exception of murder. I think that special status is appropriate in cases of murder.”

In an interview Wednesday, Pedersen said the context behind that quote is important to understand, but he "would not say that same thing again," referring to perpetrators being able to go on with their lives.

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"I think you're making it sound like I listened to a public hearing and then said that in response to victims," he said, taking issue with how the quote was framed in the context of a hearing that had just taken place.

Pedersen said the quote was given to a reporter following a hearing in the House, not the Senate, and that he did not hear testimony from victims before commenting on the broader issue at hand.

"Now having sat with victims and spent a fair of time time in the last year looking at this issue, I absolutely think there are victims who take decades to be able to process what happened to them and it's appropriate that we have, in many cases, no statute of limitations."

Senator Pedersen said the legislature is likely to pass a compromise version of Rep. Griffey's bill this year.

If that doesn't happen, Griffey said he would not be dissuaded from trying again next session.

“My resolve will not be diminished in any way shape or form. I’ve told sexual assault survivors that I will run this bill every year that I’m in Olympia until we pass it."

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