Saturday, October 30, 2010

Statute of Limitations
Suspended Minister Won’t Face Charges

Written by Dick Broom
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm
MOUNT DESERT — Rev. William “Mac” Bigelow, suspended as minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC) of Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor for sexually abusing a teenage boy three decades ago and continuing to harass him, cannot be prosecuted for sex crimes because of the state’s statute of limitations.

At the time the abuse occurred, starting in 1978 or 1979 and continuing for about three years, the statute of limitations on charging someone with gross sexual assault or sexual abuse of a minor was six years, according to Mary Kellett, assistant district attorney for Hancock County.

The statute of limitations for such felonies was eliminated by a change in state law in 1991. By then, however, the time limit had expired for prosecuting sex crimes committed before 1985.

The victim of Rev. Bigelow’s sexual abuse did not report the incidents to law enforcement or church officials at the time. Rev. Bigelow has not denied the sexual abuse, but has denied that he continued to seek sexual contact with the victim.

Rev. Bigelow was suspended from the ministry on July 19 by the committee on ministry of the Hancock-Waldo Association of the Maine Conference of the UCC.

According to the committee’s report on its evaluation of his fitness for the ministry, it found that he “did sexually abuse a minor” and “actively sought continued sexual contact with the original victim and other unwanted contact with the victim and the victim’s family over the ensuing years, with no apparent understanding of sexual abuse and its ongoing effects in the lives of the victim and the victim’s family.”

Rev. Bigelow had served as pastor of that UCC church for 32 years.

He will be eligible to apply for re-instatement to the ministry in the UCC in three years, provided he undergoes a psychological evaluation and has no further contact of any kind with the victim or the victim’s family. He also must undertake what the church committee termed a “program of growth” that focuses on “understanding ministerial boundary issues and the long-term effects of sexual abuse.”

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