SARASOTA, Fla. (January 3, 2020) — Police from Sarasota announced they arrested a former bishop who allegedly sexually assaulted a minor who was under twelve years of age at the time the assault occurred. The bishop is now 72-years-old and retired. According to a news report appearing on mysuncoasttoday.com, Sarasota police began investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in October of 2019. However, the police said that the abuse began in the 1990s. The arrested bishop was investigated in the early 1990s and again in 2001 and 2002 when police received an anonymous letter indicating that the bishop had as many as 40 sexual assault victims. They are all male. The man was not an ordained Catholic bishop but was ordained into another Christian denomination.
As of October 2019, eleven males came forward with information about the bishop committing acts of a sexual nature upon them. Most recently, three victims made statements to police that they suffered abuse at the hands of the accused. The victims said they were abused in the bishop’s community church and his home as well.
The Sarasota police arrested the bishop and booked him into the county detention center, where he remains held without bail. The Sarasota police are still looking into other allegations from other victims. However, Sarasota police said that Florida’s statute of limitations on certain crimes prohibited them from filing other charges against the cleric.
Police conducted a thorough investigation in the bishop in 2001 or 2002. Police developed information during that investigation that at least twenty victims came forward to tell police the bishop abused them in the church, on cross-country mission trips, and other church trips. Florida’s statute of limitations prohibited the police from filing charges at that time.
Florida Sexual Battery
Police and prosecutors forcefully push sexual assault crimes, especially those crimes allegedly perpetrated against children. The definitions of criminal behavior and penalties for sexual battery appear in Chapter 794 of the Florida Statutes. The statute defines sexual battery with a child under twelve as a mandatory life sentence in prison if the child was injured or the perpetrator of the crime used a deadly weapon to commit the act. The crime was once punishable by death; hence many still refer to the sexual battery of a person under twelve as “capital” sexual battery.
The government holds all of the cards with this charge. Plea bargaining to a lesser offense or winning an acquittal after trial are the only two ways to avoid a mandatory life sentence as a capital crime. The judge has no discretion whether to impose a life sentence if the jury convicts the alleged offender of sexual battery on a child under twelve. A person who is younger than eighteen who is convicted of this crime commits a life felony and could be sentenced to any term of years up to and including life.
In Florida, sexual battery is any act which is oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by another human or with an object. A person under eighteen in Florida is deemed not to have the capacity to consent to sexual battery. Consequently, the alleged agreement of the victim to participate in the acts is not a defense to the crime charged.