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Survivor, Oregon Senate GOP leader praise new sex crime law

A sexual assault survivor and Oregon’s Senate Republican leader hailed a new state law that gives more time to charge rape crimes but said more needs to be done to protect victims.

The new law will change the statute of limitations for first-degree sex crimes to 20 years after the crime was committed. If the victim was younger than 10, sex crimes could be charged at any point before the victim’s 30th birthday.

Tiffany Edens, a sexual assault survivor who joined Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, for a brief press conference on Thursday, said the new statute of limitations would have made a difference in her case. Edens was 13 when Richard Gillmore, the “jogger rapist,” broke into her home and raped her on Dec. 6, 1986.

Gillmore admitted to raping nine women and girls over a two-decade period, but he was only convicted for raping Edens because the statute of limitations kept prosecutors from charging the other crimes. Lawmakers raised the statute of limitations from six years to 12 years in 2016 and then to 20 years in the recent legislative session. Edens and Knopp said it should be eliminated entirely.

“These are very dangerous, very aggressive, horrible sex offenses,” Edens said. “I would like to see it abolished, because it says to the offenders that Oregon takes this stuff serious(ly). And then it says another thing to survivors of these types of crimes: that you are supported and we’re not going to put a time limit on your ability to get justice.”

The new law passed the House and Senate without any opposition in June after Knopp included it in negotiations to end the six-week Senate Republican walkout and allow the Legislature to get back to work. 

Knopp initially  introduced a Senate version of the statute of limitations bill in February, but Senate Judiciary Chair Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, never granted it a hearing. It was revived as House Bill 3632 during negotiations to end the Knopp-led walkout, with House Judiciary Chair Jason Kropf, D-Bend, joining Knopp and Sen. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, as a chief sponsor. 

The measure passed 52-0 in the House and 25-0 in the Senate, and Gov. Tina Kotek signed it in July. It will take effect Jan. 1. 

Along with working toward eventually abolishing the statute of limitations for sex crimes, Knopp said he and Senate Republicans plan to keep pushing other crime bills, including one that would require more thorough assessments of the risk sex offenders pose.

Because Gillmore was only convicted of one rape and was 63 when he was released from prison late last year, the state classified him as the lowest level of sex offender. That means his name and address aren’t in the state’s online sex offender registry, and the state isn’t required to notify people in his neighborhood about him. He does have to follow some rules, including not having contact with anyone younger than 18. 

Senate Bill 1022, which never received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would have allowed victims to request that their assailant be classified at a higher risk level and required the state to consider other factors, including whether a sex offender admitted to assaults that weren’t convicted. Knopp said the bill will be back in the short 2024 legislative session or the six-month 2025 session. 

“I think Oregonians are getting less and less tolerant of crimes of all kinds and are very concerned about safety, their own, for their families, especially for their kids,” he said. “We think that the momentum that passing bills like House Bill 3632 and others provide us a platform to further advocate for victims of crimes.”

Knopp may not be in office in 2025 to push for those laws: He’s one of 10 senators barred from serving another term because of his participation in the walkout, though he’s suing the state to be allowed to run for reelection. Even if he succeeds in court, he would face a tough race in a district that now favors Democrats. 

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