Russell Simmons Could Face Criminal Charges; Unpacking the New York Statute of Limitations

Photo Credit: Instagram - @unclerush

The NYPD announced yesterday that it is investigating the rape and sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons. Depending on how the investigation unfolds, Simmons could face criminal charges.

The NYPD Special Victims Unit will follow up on the allegations made by seven women.

Kelly Cutrone jumped into the fray yesterday after Simmons denied the allegations on Instagram with a #notme post.


New York technically doesn’t have a statute of limitations on rape

It’s true. New York doesn’t have a statute of limitations for rape. But like most things you read on the internet, my last sentence is only half true.

New York Criminal Procedure Law statute 30.10 allows first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sex act, and first-degree sex abuse charges anytime. However, a statute of limitations applies to all of those crimes in the second, and third-degrees.

The first-degree statutes cover a comprehensive list of terrible acts.

To prove these crimes, though, the State must prove (1) that a sex act occurred, (2) the victim was forced, and (3) there was no consent. If the State can’t find evidence that the defendant forced the sex act, it can’t bring the first-degree charge.

When the evidence only supports a second, or third-degree rape charge then a statute of limitations applies. In these situations, the statute of limitations is five years (with a few exceptions).


Rape allegations are hard to prove. 

Even if a victim goes to the hospital right away, rape allegations are hard to prove. Physical evidence disappears. Injuries heal. Even psychological stress and memories fade over time.

The victims are going to say what they are going to say. But “she said so” is not enough evidence to convict a person of rape or sexual assault. In fact, New York Penal Law statute 130.16 prohibits convictions without “unsupported” evidence.

Testimony without supporting evidence is the very definition of “reasonable doubt!” We can wring our hands and talk, for days, about how it isn’t right for these powerful men to go unpunished but this is our system. 

It is better for 100 guilty people to walk free than for 1 innocent person to go to jail. Maybe you don’t like it in the abstract. But I promise you, you’ll love it if you ever find yourself on the defense side of the “v.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here