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Suffolk DA can’t investigate molestation allegation due to statute of limitations

According to Newsday, Suffolk County law enforcement can’t investigate an allegation that a parish priest molested a minor more than 40 years ago because the statute of limitations has expired, officials said.

The Rev. Steven J. Peterson, 71, a pastor in Nassau County, agreed to step down from ministry while the allegation is investigated, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said this week.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office was informed of the allegation on Saturday, but Suffolk authorities cannot pursue an investigation because the allegation is four decades old, Sheila Kelly, a spokeswoman for the office, said Tuesday.

Under policies adopted nationwide by the Roman Catholic Church and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, “an investigation is begun when an accusation is made,” said diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan. Diocesan policies call for the allegation to be reported to civil authorities, which the diocese did, he said.

Peterson could eventually be returned to ministry if he is cleared, or permanently suspended or removed from the priesthood if deemed warranted.

Peterson could not be reached for comment.

Sex abuse victims in New York generally must come forward by the time they turn 23, but many do not because they are still too traumatized, said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania professor and child sex abuse expert.

Peterson was serving as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in the village of Manorhaven when he voluntarily agreed to step aside.

“There is no statute of limitations for trauma. Brave victims like this one have suffered for far too long. Survivors deserve a voice and the opportunity to seek justice,” said nationally recognized sex abuse attorney Jeff Herman.

The time has finally come for survivors of sexual abuse in New York. Following the recent passage of the Child Victims Act, survivors of any age can seek civil damages during a limited one-year window beginning August 14, 2019. “The healing process begins as soon as a survivor speaks about the tragedy that happened to them,” said Jeff.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in New York, Herman Law may be able to help you achieve long overdue justice. Jeff Herman is a trailblazer in the representation of victims of sexual abuse, devoting 100% of his practice to the cause. Renowned for his aggressive and tireless advocacy on behalf of his clients, Jeff understands the unique issues involved in the representation of survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

Please contact us today to discuss your options.

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