Abuse allegations against Woody Allen prompt new legal questions

Sun Feb 2, 2014 10:41pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Woody Allen contends that renewed accusations by the filmmaker's adopted daughter that he sexually abused her at age 7 are "untrue and disgraceful," a spokeswoman for the director said on Sunday, a day after her letter detailing the allegations shook up Hollywood.

Dylan Farrow, 28, the daughter of Allen's former girlfriend, actress Mia Farrow, challenged the acclaim the 78-year-old Oscar-winner has received in recent years, as she told her side of the decades-old case in an open letter published by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a friend of the Farrows.

The allegation that Woody Allen abused Dylan Farrow first surfaced around the time of his 1992 split with Mia Farrow. Allen wasn't arrested or prosecuted in the case. An investigation was conducted by court-appointed experts who did not find enough evidence to support a case against Allen.

"Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful. He will be responding very soon," spokeswoman Leslee Dart said in an email.

Legal experts said that if prosecutors felt there was enough evidence from Dylan Farrow, it may still be too late under U.S. law to bring a case against Allen in Connecticut, where the incident is alleged to have occurred at the Farrow home.

To get a jury to convict Allen, a prosecutor would need to show he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, based on evidence such as testimony from Dylan Farrow. That could present a high standard to overcome decades after the original allegations.

The passage of time has likely barred the possibility Allen could be prosecuted on sexual abuse charges, said Todd Fernow, a law professor at the University of Connecticut. Under Connecticut law, the statute of limitations for all but the most serious sexual crimes lasts for five years from when a police report is filed, which if applied to Dylan Farrow's claim of having been abused in 1992 would have run until 1997, Fernow said.

Connecticut state prosecutor Frank Maco in 1993 declined to bring charges against Allen and retired in 2003. He declined to speculate on Sunday about whether a criminal case could be brought based on the allegations Dylan Farrow has outlined.   Continued...

Director of the movie and cast member Woody Allen speaks on stage at the premiere of "To Rome with Love" during the opening night of the Los Angeles Film Festival at the Regal Cinemas in Los Angeles, California June 14, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni