One of the widespread beliefs about the Woody Allen sexual abuse allegations is that it’s much too late to prosecute him, and that his adopted daughter is detailing her allegations publicly because she has no other recourse.
But it may still be possible to charge him — depending on the specifics of Dylan Farrow’s account.
If Allen’s alleged sexual assault of Dylan Farrow was limited to one assault in Connecticut, then it is too late to prosecute him. But if she alleges that he committed other assaults a few miles away, across state lines, he is still subject to prosecution.
The passage of time would make the case difficult to prove, to be sure. But if Dylan Farrow says her adopted father molested her in New York, she could still seek charges there: The state has no statue of limitations on certain felony sex crimes.
Allen has denied the allegations, which first surfaced in 1992. (He is pictured holding hands with Dylan Farrow early that year.)
Allen and Mia Farrow famously had separate homes on opposite sides of New York City’s Central Park around the time Dylan Farrow alleges he molested her. The family occasionally spent weekends in Bridgewater, Conn.
Allen and Farrow described their life together in a 1991 New York Times piece, months before their acrimonious split, indicating that Allen often arrived at Mia Farrow‘s home before the children awoke, and stayed after they fell asleep.
The alleged sexual assault Farrow described in a New York Times blog post Saturday seems to have occurred, according to her recollection, in an attic-like space in the second floor of the Connecticut home. An extensive 1992 Vanity Fair story about the allegations says the home was in Bridgewater.
Dylan Farrow notes that a Connecticut prosecutor investigated, but opted not to bring charges against Allen in order to spare her further suffering.
That now-retired prosecutor, Frank Maco, told the Associated Press over the weekend that he believes the statute of limitations on the case expired more than 15 years ago. Cornelius Kelly, a Connecticut Assistant State’s Attorney, told TheWrap on Monday that the state’s statute of limitation in the case would have been seven years.
But that still wouldn’t preclude Allen from being prosecuted in New York — if he committed any offenses there similar to the one Dylan Farrow described in Connecticut.
Here’s what New York Criminal Penal Law §30.10 says about the statute of limitations in certain sex assault cases:
“A prosecution for a Class A felony, or rape in the first degree as defined in section 130.35 of the penal law, or a crime defined or formerly defined in section 130.50 of the penal law, or aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree as defined in section 130.70 of the penal law, or course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree as defined in section 130.75 of the penal law may be commenced at any time.”
When you cut through the legalese, one thing stands out: “Any time” means “any time.”
Among the challenges of prosecuting old sex crimes, or any crimes, are fading memories and the difficulty of finding old, contemporaneous evidence to support the accuser’s account.
But Dylan Farrow’s memory is clearly sharp. And if she went to Manhattan prosecutors now, they would look for evidence that she made claims two decades ago similar to the ones she is making now.
The prosecutors would find plenty: As she noted in her blog post, she spent years repeating her allegations against Allen “to doctor after doctor.” And many details in Dylan Farrow’s blog post are also included in the 1992 Vanity Fair story.
It is rare, but not unheard of, for people to go to prison for sex crimes that occurred decades earlier. The Catholic Church molestation scandal, for example, uncovered a trove of cases in which a priest escaped punishment for years, only to be caught when a child victim came forward as an adult.
Of course, all of this is predicated on a huge question: Does Dylan Farrow contend that Allen ever molested her in New York? Her blog post doesn’t go into detail about where she says she was molested — and it’s entirely understandable that a survivor of sexual assault wouldn’t want to share every detail with the public. TheWrap reached out to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who posted her blog, for clarification. We have not yet heard back.
Dylan Farrow has contended that some highly questionable behaviors by Allen — making her suck his thumb; making her get under covers with him when he was in his underwear; putting his head in her lap when she was naked — happened “routinely.” That would seem to suggest they occurred in both New York and Connecticut. But traumatic as that behavior may have been, it does not appear that they would rise to the level of a felony in New York.
As the penal law quoted above states, the “any time” provision is specifically for Class A felonies. Lesser crimes — if they qualify as crimes — do have statutes of limitations. Creepy as they sound, it is debatable whether Allen’s alleged “routine” behaviors would even rise to the level of misdemeanors. That means he could not be prosecuted for making his adopted daughter suck his thumb, for example. But such behavior could be used to show a pattern of inappropriate behavior.
The attic-like room is different. Dylan Farrow describes what happened there as a full-blown sexual assault.
Such an attack would certainly be a felony, and if Allen committed such an assault in New York, there is no legal barrier to Dylan Farrow trying to put him behind bars.