MAYVILLE – “We are innocent until proven guilty.”
During an interview with WNYNewsNow last Thursday, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello reacted to the latest push in Albany for the adoption of the Child Victims Act. The act calls for an increase in the statue of limitations.
Borrello said that the act is approaching a fine line between justice and injustice in accordance with the United States Judicial System.
“I think this is certainly a balancing act. People certainly have the right to have justice,” Borrello said. “At the same time, if you’re talking about someone who was abused when they were 15 years old, and now at age 50, not that that’s not worth while, but you have to ask yourself, ‘Where is the burden of proof?'”
“In our system of justice, the burden of proof is on the accuser, and on the prosecution to prove guilt. When you start talking about things that happened 30, 40 years ago, chances are there aren’t witnesses, evidence and other things you need to properly and effectively prosecute a case.”
Borrello admitted that he hasn’t studied the legislation too closely, but he added that State Assemblyman Andy Goodell told him that there were some modifications from the original legislation. Goodell previously voiced his disapproval of the legislation.
According to Borrello, the previous version of the act basically made a number of organizations “guilty until proven innocent.” Borrello said that was why Goodell opposed the act.
“I hope, whatever reforms were made, will take into consideration that we are, indeed, innocent until proven guilty, and that we can give proper justice and the day in court for those alleged victims,” Borrello said. “Hopefully, we can still provide justice while following the basic tenets of our democracy.”
When asked if the County could be affected financially by adopting the act, Borrello said he couldn’t answer specifically as a lot remains unanswered. He did say, however, that there could be a cost increase based on the cost of prosecuting cases.
“That remains to be seen,” Borrello said. “How that rolls out when it comes to people that will want to bring a criminal case, that could very well have an impact on the cost of adjudicating those cases.”
WNYNewsNow also reached Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson for comment Thursday. Swanson said that the act would help, but the cases would still be difficult to prosecute.
“The idea to extend this is so that if someone who is 12 can report it when they’re comfortable in their 20’s,” Swanson said. “It won’t make the case any easier to prosecute when there’s a late report, but at least, in cases where there’s good evidence and good proof, maybe there’s one or two more cases where we can take a child predator off the streets, which would be good.”
The prosecutor, however, said he’s in support of the act. Swanson added that he doesn’t expect a huge increase in child abuse cases if the act passes.
When asked what impact the potential adoption of the Child Victims Act would have on his department, Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings said it wouldn’t impact how a case is investigated. The only impact would be the increase in statue of limitations.
WNYNewsNow also reached out to Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone and Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone for comment. However, the calls have remained unanswered.