Editor's note: This story has been updated.
Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff asked in a Nov. 1 tweet why his opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, had not initiated a grand jury investigation of suspected child abuse in the Catholic Church.
“This is a devastating account of children abused & justice denied,” Romanoff wrote. “Why didn’t Gov. Hickenlooper request a grand jury investigation?”
Romanoff referenced a report that the attorney general’s office released on Oct. 23 detailing how at least 166 children appear to have been the victims of sexual abuse in Colorado’s Catholic dioceses from 1950 to 1998.
The Colorado Sun reported last week that during Hickenlooper’s final months in office, then-Attorney General Cynthia Coffman discussed with him the allegations she had heard. She would have needed the governor to authorize any grand jury investigation.
However, Coffman and Hickenlooper both recalled that she had not formally requested action from him. Coffman ended up negotiating an investigation with the Church that depended upon the voluntary handover of records.
The October report only referred one case to law enforcement for investigation, citing the statute of limitations.
Romanoff subsequently tweeted his support for extending the civil statute of limitations to let victims sue, as well as for empowering the attorney general to investigate more broadly.
“Sign our petition urging the #coleg to lift the statute of limitations on filing civil lawsuits in child sex abuse cases & let the AG launch criminal investigations,” he wrote.
“It usually takes victims decades—until age 52, on average—to report childhood sexual abuse; most never do,” another tweet added. He urged lawmakers to “try again” in lifting the statute of limitations.
A spokesperson for the Hickenlooper campaign called the abuse report "devastating."
"As the Attorney General herself has said, she did not tell the governor that there were grounds for a grand jury investigation," said Melissa Miller. "It's clear that further investigation is needed so we can hold accountable both perpetrators and those who covered for them."
At least one state lawmaker publicly supports reforming the statute of limitations, while others are studying the issue.