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The People &C v. Santos Quinto

February 9, 2012

THE PEOPLE &C., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT,
v.
SANTOS QUINTO, APPELLANT-RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graffeo, J.:

This memorandum is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the New York Reports.

This case calls upon us to consider the type of information that qualifies as a report of a sex crime against a child that triggers the commencement of the statute of limitations under CPL 30.10 (3) (f).

I

In New York, although class A felonies and four specified class B felony sex offenses have no limitations period (see CPL 30.10 [2] [a]), all other felonies are covered by a five-year statute of limitations (see CPL 30.10 [2] [b]). A two-year window applies to misdemeanors (see CPL 30.10 [2] [c]) and petty offenses must be prosecuted within one year (see CPL 30.10 [2] [d]).

For those crimes governed by a statute of limitations, the general rule is that the time period commences when a criminal offense is committed (see CPL 30.10 [2]). By the mid-1990s, there was a widespread recognition that the strictures of the limitations periods pertaining to sex offenses against children presented unique difficulties because many child victims are hesitant or fearful of disclosing such crimes, especially when the sexual abuse is committed by a family member or an individual in the child's household. In response to these concerns, new laws adding tolling provisions to the statutes of limitations for sexual offenses against children were enacted in 1996 as part of a "major step" (Letter from President of Borough of Queens, June 5, 1996, Bill Jacket, L 1996, ch 122, at 22) toward "ensur[ing] that the law provides the highest level of protection possible to these most vulnerable victims" (Letter from Mayor of City of New York, June 5, 1996, Bill Jacket, L 1996, ch 122, at 28). These provisions were adopted based on the Legislature's recognition that

"child-victims of sex offenses cannot fully appreciate the crimes committed against them until they reach maturity; many child-victims are victimized by parents or other persons with whom they have a close relationship, and cannot reasonably be expected to report these crimes while they remain under the sway of their abusers" (Governor's Approval Mem, Bill Jacket, L 1996, ch 122, at 13, reprinted in McKinney's Session Laws of NY, at 1864; see also Assembly Mem in Support, 1996 McKinney's Session Laws of NY, at 2085).

CPL 30.10 (3) (f) was a major component of the legislative package. It established that the statute of limitations in a prosecution of a sex offense (other than those that are not subject to any limitations period) committed against a minor does not begin to run "until the child has reached the age of eighteen or the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency or statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment, whichever occurs earlier" (CPL 30.10 [3] [f]). Delaying the commencement of the relevant limitations period until the age of maturity was intended to "increase the likelihood that young adults, recently freed from a position of dependency, will disclose the offenses committed against them in order to seek redress through the criminal justice system" and that this would "also improve opportunities for preventing recurrences of the conduct by the perpetrator" (Letter from Council on Children and Families, June 17, 1996, Bill Jacket, L 1996, ch 122, at 18). Although majority age replaced the commission of the crime date as the general starting point for the statute of limitations, a statutory exception starts the clock running sooner. The limitations period is triggered if "the offense is reported" to the police or to the central register for child abuse. The scope of CPL 30.10 (3) (f) is the central focus of this appeal; more particularly, what constitutes a report to law enforcement for statute of limitations purposes?

II

The child at issue in this case, whom we refer to as Jane, was 14 years old when she underwent a medical examination in November 2002 that revealed she was 12 weeks pregnant, with a conception date in August of that year. At first, Jane denied that she had been sexually active or that she was being sexually abused at home. She later claimed that she had been raped in August 2002 at school by a classmate.

Jane eventually told the investigating police officers that she had consensual, unprotected intercourse with a 14-year-old boy. She explained that she lied about being raped because she did not want her parents to know that she was having sex. After she gave the police a written retraction of the rape accusation, the case was closed.

Jane turned 18 years of age in January 2006. Over a year later, when she was 19 years old, Jane informed the police that she had been sexually assaulted years earlier by her step-grandfather, defendant Santos Quinto. Based on this disclosure, in December 2007, defendant was charged in a felony complaint with rape and related offenses.

Jane subsequently testified before a grand jury that defendant had raped her on three different occasions in 2002 in the Brooklyn home where they resided: (1) once between May 2002 and the end of June 2002; (2) once between July 2002 and the end of August 2002; and (3) once during the month of September 2002. On at least one of those occasions, defendant purportedly threatened to rape Jane's sister if she did not submit to intercourse with him. Jane claimed that she told her grandmother (defendant's wife) about these incidents but her grandmother did not believe her. She also explained that she had kept the sexual assaults and pregnancy a secret from everyone because defendant warned her not to say anything and she was afraid of him.

The grand jury indicted defendant for numerous offenses grouped into the three distinct time periods:

1. For defendant's alleged conduct between May 1, 2002 and June 30, 2002, he was charged with: rape in the second degree (Penal Law § 130.30 [1], a class D felony); sexual misconduct (Penal Law § 130.20 [1], a class A misdemeanor); endangering the welfare of a child (Penal Law § 260.10 [1], a class A misdemeanor); two counts of sexual abuse in the third degree (Penal Law § 130.55, ...


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