Beall Proposes Bill To Stop Secret Settlements From Hiding Molesters
San Jose Swim Coach Molestation Case Triggers AB 1628
Legislation that would ban confidential lawsuit settlements involving allegations of child sexual abuse and lengthen the statute of limitations for victims to file civil actions has been introduced by Assemblymember Jim Beall.
“Assembly Bill 1628 addresses gaps in the law that enable pedophiles to shield their activities,’’ Beall said. “The best way to stop hidden predators from hurting more children is by identifying them. The law must be changed to protect children, not child molesters.’’
The bill, which strengthens reporting standards, was triggered by the arrest and conviction of San Jose swim coach Andrew King who pleaded no contest in 2009 to 20 felony counts of child molestation. He is serving a 40-year sentence in state prison.
A teen-age girl who had been abused by King, and San Jose attorney B. Robert Allard, who represented her and her family in a lawsuit against the convicted coach, came to Beall and asked him to change the law to stop pedophiles like King from freely roaming from swim club to swim club without having his past activities uncovered. Allard helped to draft language for the bill.
“I have seen firsthand the horrific damage that is inflicted on victims of childhood sex abuse.’’ Allard said. “Most if not all of this abuse would have been prevented had these proposed laws been in place and followed at the time. I applaud Mr. Beall and his staff for taking the initiative on these measures. I have every confidence that the children residents of California will be safer if AB 1628 takes effect.”
If passed, AB 1628 would outlaw confidential settlements, effective Jan. 1, 2013, that are based on child sexual abuse. Violation of this provision would be a misdemeanor. Any attorney who demands such a secret settlement would be subject to discipline by the State Bar.
It also raises the statute of limitations for victims to file lawsuits against their abuser. Currently, the victims must file by age 26. Under the bill, it would rise to 35.
The bill also directs any private entity whose workers, agents, licensees, and representatives are mandated reporters or who closely interact with children to designate an employee to receive complaints of suspected child abuse. The internal reporting process must be made known to employees throughout the organization.
Any of these private entities that use public property – such as a soccer field or swimming pool – would be required to conduct enhanced background checks on employees or any representative that include, at minimum: Three past employment checks; three reference checks; a criminal background check; a public records search to determine if the person was a respondent in a lawsuit involving physical or sexual abuse of a child.
The organizations would also be required to indemnify public entities up to $1 million to insulate them against claims of child abuse or neglect that might arise when the private organizations use the public property.
Violations of these provisions would be misdemeanor that carries a $1,000 fine or a six-month jail sentence.
The bill is scheduled to be heard April 17 in the Public Safety Committee.
In a related action, Beall has also introduced ACR 125, a resolution designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Seventy-three legislators joined as co-authors to Beall’s resolution , which was approved today by the Assembly.
Contact: Rodney Foo, 408.282.8920