USA Today: Stephen Collins Case Still Unanswered

Naz Barouti, USA Today

Collins pedophilia "confession" case, but nagging questions remain. Among them: What happened to the presumption of innocence?

Collins, a B-list actor, was secretly recorded admitting to decades-old child molestation, during a therapy session in connection with his divorce. The tape was leaked to TMZ last week, two years after it was made.

Naz Barouti, USA Today

Immediately, Collins is toast. At least two criminal investigations are launched, with a third one revealed today. He's fired from a movie. His appearances in a hit TV show are canceled. Reruns of his successful series 7th Heaven are suspended. He resigns from the board of the Screen Actors Guild. His agent drops him. Friends and foes defend and excoriate him on social media. Concerns about his state of mind are such that they provoke false alarms that he has committed suicide at his home. Media search for clues everywhere, including today's report that Collins plays a pedophile priest in a new film.

He has not been convicted of a crime — he has not been charged and may never be — but it doesn't matter. In the lightning-fast court of public opinion , the presumption of innocence has fled the scene.

Is there a precedent in the celebrity annals? Only recently, Woody Allen was accused of child molestation by his own daughter. He denied it and nothing came of it except a lot of angry exchanges in social media.

Decades ago, director Roman Polanski was accused of underage sex with a teen girl, was convicted after pleading guilty, fled before sentencing and has been living as a fugitive in Europe ever since.

By contrast, it seems challenging that Collins could ever recover his career and reputation, even if eventually he's cleared or never charged.

Meanwhile, there are some questions that keep nagging:

How can someone be prosecuted for alleged child molestation if the statute of limitations has expired?

It depends on where the alleged crimes occurred and when they occurred. "In California, the victim has eight years from the age of 18 to come forward," says Naz Barouti, a California lawyer and radio talk-show host on legal matters. In New York, it's five years. Although the laws allow for extensions, in Collins' case the statutes appear to have expired. This might explain why no charges were brought against Collins when allegations were first raised in 2012 in New York... READ MORE