The widespread allegations of sexual assault against comedian Bill Cosby have inspired a push by Colorado lawmakers to make it easier for victims to pursue criminal charges against their rapists.
Newly introduced bipartisan legislation would eliminate Colorado’s statute of limitations for felony sexual assault cases, enabling prosecutors to go after suspects when accusations or evidence emerges years after the offense.
Cosby has faced public allegations from more than 50 women – many of whom say the 78-year-old disgraced entertainer drugged and assaulted them.
District attorneys, however, have been largely unable to seek criminal convictions, because the various statutes of limitations written into state laws bar them from filing charges after a certain number of years have passed.
State representative Rhonda Fields, a Democrat, said that two Cosby accusers from Colorado – Beth Ferrier and Heidi Thomas – approached her last year with the idea of pursuing legislation that would abolish the state’s existing 10-year time limit for sexual assault cases. Both women have accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting them in the 1980s.
“For them, it’s validation that someone is listening to them, someone believes them, and someone is willing to act on their story,” said Fields, who introduced the legislation with Republican state senator John Cooke last week. “It just gives them a sense of … restored confidence in the criminal justice system.”
The legislation would not be retroactive, meaning Cosby would still be shielded from criminal prosecution in the two Colorado cases if the bill becomes law. Although he has been the subject of many civil lawsuits, Cosby is only facing criminal charges in one case out of Pennsylvania, which prosecutors filed just before the 12-year statute of limitations there would have blocked the district attorney from moving forward.