Fairness Requires Reasonable Statutes of Limitations in All Criminal Cases: 8-Year Delay in Reporting in Lee Annette Williams Case

A 51-year-old school teacher in North Carolina has been charged with statutory rape and related crimes after she was accused of having an affair with a male student eight years ago. Lee Annette Williams, of Winston-Salem, has been charged with two counts of statutory rape, four counts of sex offenses with a minor and four counts of indecent liberties with a child.

Williams was the boy’s teacher at Ledford Middle School in Thomasville, NC when the boy was 14 and 15 years old at the times of the alleged incidents—June 2009 and July 2010. Williams was taken into custody and posted $50,000 bail and has a court appearance set for August 25th.

North Carolina does not have a statute of limitations in sex offenses cases. The majority of states do have statutes that limit the time periods when such charges can be brought.

Social media posts suggest that Williams is now married and has two sons in their 20s and a college-age daughter with her husband of 26 years.

OUR FREE OPINION 

As a threshold matter, in general, we find the delay in reporting these types of crimes to be suspect. Despite, the bogus psychological literature that opines that late reporting of sex crimes is still consistent with telling the truth, the vast majority of criminal defense trial lawyers, who regularly and diligently battle such delayed reporting claims will tell you that such accusations are often unreliable and, more often than not, false accusations.

We have a greater disdain for lawmakers who pass laws that do away with statutes of limitations. It is grossly unfair to the person charged: The defendant often loses valuable witnesses and scientific evidence because of the lapse of time. His or her ability to defend against the crime is diminished.

Proponents of the elimination of time limitations argue that some victims do not realize they have been assaulted until they have aged, and therefore, statutes of limitations should be extended or eliminated. There may be some merit to this contention if the victim is less than five-years-old, but the apparent prejudice to the defendant outweighs any probative value that endless time limitations are said to provide for older victims.

Of course, we pass no judgment on the claims made in this case other than to say the process is flawed to the detriment of the defendant. We think reasonable statutes of limitations should apply in every case across the nation.

UPDATE:

Annette Williams the former middle school teacher in North Carolina has been placed on probation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teenager boy nine years ago. The 51-year-old pleaded guilty to a single count of a  “crime against nature,” for conduct for events that occurred in 2009. According to reports, she was placed on probation for two years.

 

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