WTOC Investigates: Failure to pass Hidden Predator Act of 2018

ATLANTA (WTOC) - A local representative is disappointed and angry after a bill failed that would have given victims of child sexual abuse some justice.

House Bill 605 - also known as the Hidden Predator Act of 2018 - will not reach the Senate floor this year. We've been following the bill since its introduction. Its failure in the Senate has both supporters of the bill and abuse victims steaming.

When the Georgia House passed the Hidden Predator Act of 2018 170-0, expectations were high that the Senate might ignore the swell of special interest money and lobbyists who were fighting it tooth and nail. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee did its best to whittle the bill down to nothing but a name. As printed when it came out of that committee, it left Georgia in the same boat it's been captaining for decades: pedophile friendly, victim hostile.

In the waning moments before the Senate caved to organizations like the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, and the State Chamber of Commerce, the bill's sponsor, Representative Jason Spencer made one last plea, sighting the irony of this being the start of Easter weekend.

"Just as government leaders did 2,000 years ago, in the person of Pontius Pilot, this time the same result will follow: the death of innocence. The question is whether this generation's group of leaders will forever carry the blood on its hands for the complicity with special interest groups like the Boy Scouts of America, like USA Gymnastics, like the Catholic Church and others who have systematically covered up for decades sexual abuse of innocent children," Spencer said.

Many of the same victims who found inspiration in the unanimous House passage of the bill found despair and anger in the Senate.

"I was astounded, not necessarily by the what, but the who," said Monica Mathews, child sex abuse victim. "I was astounded by the process being subverted because of bedfellows, whether monetary or political."

Those bedfellows are powerful lobbies, and the last thing they want is their organizations at the mercy of adults coming to them years later seeking justice for mistakes of the past.

Our attempts to reach those lobbyists for comment went unreturned. Our attempts to reach the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Waynesboro's Jesse Stone, were also unreturned. So, where does that leave Georgia in a nation where nearly every other state legislature has extended the statutes for child sex abuse victims to seek that justice?

Representative Spencer followed up his remarks with a Facebook post on Friday. His anger over the Senate's actions are still raw. The post said in part, 'Georgia will continue to be one of the worst states in the country to extend justice to victims, and it will continue to be a hub for child sex trafficking. This is not a proud moment for Georgia.'

Spencer, who has spent the last four years of his political life and capital on this effort, insists in that same Facebook post, 'We will win the WAR.'

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