This story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Most civil lawsuits must be brought within a few years of the alleged wrongful activity, or the case is barred by a statute of limitations. In Hawaii, where Michael Egan III has sued Bryan Singer and three others, child sexual-abuse cases usually must be filed by whichever is later: the time the plaintiff is 26, or three years after the date the plaintiff discovered that the child sexual abuse caused psychological injury in adulthood.
But in 2012, Hawaii amended its statute to create a special two-year window for cases that ordinarily would be barred by the passage of time. That paved the way for the lawsuits that now have rocked Hollywood. Egan alleges the sexual abuse occurred in Hawaii in 1999, when he was 17. His attorney, Jeff Herman, filed days before Hawaii’s window closed, on April 24.
Civil suits alleging child sexual abuse often have longer statutes of limitations than some other cases. Such extended statutes, like Hawaii’s and those in other states, are a legacy of child sexual-abuse scandals from the 1980s that rocketed the issue to public attention, followed by cases involving the Catholic Church and others in which victims, for various reasons, took years to make public their allegations. Even so, there typically is a limit to how much time has passed. That was the case in July, when a New York judge ruled three plaintiffs were too late to bring suit against Kevin Clash, the voice of the Sesame Street puppet Elmo, whom they alleged had engaged in sex with minors (he denied the claims; on April 24, that decision was upheld).
What about criminal charges in the Hollywood cases? Egan and his mother say that authorities all but ignored their complaints in 2000, but there’s no statute of limitations on the Mann Act, a federal law that bars transporting minors under 18 across state lines for sexual purposes. If DEN president Marc Collins-Rector, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to multiple Mann Act charges, arranged the flights that allegedly took minors and adults to sex parties, Singer and the other defendants might be vulnerable if they participated.
All four defendants deny going to Hawaii with Egan, and civil lawyers for two told THR they see no need to hire criminal attorneys. Maybe not, but attorney Demosthenes Lorandos says he would advise them to be prepared. Not having a criminal attorney at this stage, he says, would be “just nuts.”