With added attention given to victims of high-profile sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers have re-introduced a measure that would eliminate the statute of limitations on reporting sexual offenses involving minors.
Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orlando, filed a measure (SB 170) intended to end the three-year window for minors aged 16 and 17 to report a sex battery. Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, has co-sponsored the measure, which the lawmakers hope will be taken up during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January.
“The bill was inspired by women such as Donna Hedrick, who was abused by a teacher and buried her secret for more than 40 years, and numerous others who could have reported and possibly stopped notorious repeat offenders such as Jeffery Epstein had the statute of limitations not run,” a press release from Stewart said.
Epstein, 66, was found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell in a federal jail in New York on Aug. 10.
The wealthy financier was facing sex-trafficking charges involving minors in Florida and New York. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into “irregularities” regarding Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement and subsequent incarceration with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
The politically connected Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges in Florida, including procuring a minor for sex. Stewart and Perry backed similar legislation in the 2019 session.
The bill received unanimous support from one committee but went no further. Similar legislation (HB 69) has been filed this year in the House by Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis and Longwood Republican Scott Plakon.