Colorado lawmakers to consider sex assault bill based on Bill Cosby
Bipartisan effort to remove statute of limitations
The Colorado legislature soon will consider a bill inspired by sex-abuse allegations against actor Bill Cosby.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, and Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley and the former Weld County sheriff, would remove the statute of limitations on sex-assault accusations.
At least two women in Colorado say they were drugged and assaulted by the 78-year-old TV icon. Dozens of women have come forward with allegations dating as far back as the 1960s, and some are frustrated by laws that place time limits on when victims can pursue charges.
Cosby has been charged in one case. He was arrested Dec. 30. Prosecutors allege Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his Pennsylvania mansion in 2004.
Colorado has a 10-year limit, except when the victim is a child younger than 15, in which case there is no limitation.
Beth Ferrier, 56, of Denver and Heidi Thomas, 56, of Castle Rockare among Cosby’s accusers. Both were aspiring models with the Denver talent agency JF Images in the mid-1980s, when they said they were drugged and assaulted by the actor. Cosby was a friend of JF Images founder Jo Farrell.
Ferrier and Thomas approached Fields, a well-known advocate for crime victims, to introduce a bill eliminating the time limit.
“They wanted to pay it forward,” Fields said, noting that the bill would not be retroactive. “This law won’t help them, but it could help a lot of others.”
She said people who are raped or sexually assaulted “don’t stop being a victim after 10 years. Why should a violent crime just expire because of a time limit?”
Cooke said advancements in technology, including DNA, make the statute of limitations an encumbrance on justice for a violent crime that leaves lifelong trauma.
“There are advancements to solve cases now,” Cooke said, citing the 1977 rape and murder of Greeley convenience store clerk Mary Pierce, 22. Marcello Maldonado-Perez was arrested in 2009 in Port Charlotte, Fla., after his DNA was linked to the cold case when Cooke was sheriff.
Fields said with Cooke’s support and the support of other law enforcement leaders, the “common sense” bill will pass.
Thirty-four states put time limits on sex-assault arrests, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Sex assault against an adult could join other crimes with no limitation on prosecution, including murder, kidnapping, treason and sex assault on a child younger than 15.
“This law isn’t about Bill Cosby,” Fields said. “This is about believing women and men when they say they have been assaulted and want their case heard.”