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L.A. District Attorney Cannot Charge Filmmaker James Toback Due to One Year Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery

In October 2017, shortly after the news of Harvey Weinstein erupted, the LA Times reported that 38 women had made sexual harassment allegations against filmmaker James Toback.

Within a few hours, hundreds of other women, including actresses Julianne Moore, Selma Blair, and Rachel McAdams, stepped forward with allegations of incidents that occurred during the casting of Toback’s films. Since the story was published, the number has increased from 38 people to nearly 400 and it’s still climbing.

Last week, the Los Angeles District Attorney announced that Toback will not face criminal charges or prosecution on five allegations of assault because the one-year statute of limitations on sexual battery has expired.

The alleged victims of the five investigations say that the abuse took place between 1978 and 2008. District Attorney Liliana Gonzalez found the cases too old to prosecute and, in one case, one of the victims did not show up for the interview.

The #MeToo movement has exposed some of the many secrets kept by the most powerful people in Hollywood. In the midst of all of the lawsuits, firings, and defamation, actual criminal consequences have been few and far between.

Many of the barriers being navigated in the prosecution process have to do with statute of limitations and the differences in state laws regarding sexual crimes. Toback would have faced charges for sexual battery but the crime has a one-year statute of limitations in California. Many states have recently been reassessing sex crime laws but any changes will not be applied to crimes that have already occurred.

In 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill calling for no statute of limitations when prosecuting rape cases. It’s been speculated that this bill was inspired by the allegations against comedian Bill Cosby. Prior to the change, the statute was set at 10 years for a felony sex offense. Unfortunately, the law only applies to crimes committed after January 1st, 2017.

Currently, 34 states impose a limit on when rape cases can be brought forward, ranging from 3 to 30 years after the crime. While these statutes were created to ensure that trial evidence does not become “stale or even unclear or discernable” over time, the one-year statute that saved Toback is ridiculous. When you take into account the power dynamics at play when either committing or reporting an assault, it becomes clear there should be no statute of limitations on it.

Although the Los Angeles Times investigation into Toback pointed out a 40-year pattern of misconduct and nearly 400 women have corroborated the abuse, L.A. prosecutors have no outstanding cases against Toback.

Featured Image by Giuseppe Milo on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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  1. Avatar

    Wendy Matson Wells

    April 19, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Good Morning, reading this article again, I personally feel that every state across the United States, needs to have a no statues of limitations on rape. Have a good day, Wendy

  2. Avatar

    Wendy Matson Wells

    April 16, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Good Morning, I am very fortunate, my rape happened in NC, where we have no statues of limitations. I feel that all states should have no statues of limitation on rape. The Governor in California is excellent, so I feel he would be able to make an excellent impact. It’s really sad due to it normal takes several years for a woman to recover from such a horrible crime, and we have nice men out here that would never think of doing this crime to women. Thank you for sharing, Wendy

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