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  • By Bruce Lloyd

Federal Judge Manibusan hears arguments for and against dismissing sexual abuse charges against Arch

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joaquin V. E. Manibusan Jr. heard arguments for and against dismissal of charges against embattled Diocese of Agana Archbishop Anthony Apuron, centering around the question of whether past, repealed statutes of limitation under Guam law still applied to these over 40 year old cases.

Statutes of limitation require that victims of crime file court cases within a set period of time. Generally, if the victims don't go to court within the set period, they are barred from pursuing their case in the future.

But the Guam Legislature changed its statute of limitations law--not for the first time--with respect to child sexual abuse cases, which are believed to present special problems when abuse of children is involved.

Public Law 33-187 states: [A]t any time following the effective date of this Act, victims of child sexual abuse that occurred on Guam who have been barred from filing suit against their abusers by virtue of the expiration of the civil statute of limitations shall be permitted to file those claims in the Guam Superior Court.

And that is what has been done in just under 100 cases alleging clergy sexual abuse against former altar boys and others who had contact with the Catholic church on Guam as far back as the 1950s.

Guam Attorney Jacqueline Terlaje, representing Archbishop Apuron, argued that despite the language in the current law, the previous statutes of limitation still have application to the older cases.

"Essentially the judge was saying, the 1980 law no longer exists, right,?" Terlaje said to reporters after the hearing. "Because it was repealed by and replaced by the Legislature with the 2011 law. I said, 'yes judge, that would be right even though it may no longer exist, there's a law that replaced it, it doesn't completely eradicate or replace the old law that was there for old matters.' He needs to determine whether retroactive application is permitted, whether or not this particular law did in fact do the retroactive application."

That view was disputed by Los Angeles Attorney Gregory Nicolaysen, participating by phone link. Nicolaysen said the dismissal motion is an attempt "to exploit the passage of time" by Apuron who has flatly denied any role in abuse that took place. Nicolaysen said that the focus of the cases should be on restoring the badly damaged relations between the church and the Guam community.

Nicolaysen said that given the circumstances of the power of the church in the Guam community and the pressures on victims and their parents not to report abuse in the past, it was not unreasonable or irrational of the Legislature to change the law to reflect these unique circumstances.

Judge Manibusan took the arguments under advisement and did not set a date or time for announcing his decision.


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