Senator Kissel: “Judiciary Committee Passes ‘Jessica’s Law’ Bill”

April 13, 2007

State Senator John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, today announced that a measure to increase penalties against those convicted of sex crimes against children unanimously passed the legislature’s Judiciary Committee last evening. The legislation, also known as “Jessica’s Law,” would create a new crime of “aggravated sexual assault of a minor” if a person commits a sex offense against a child under the age of thirteen. The bill also sets out several aggravating factors that would trigger the new law including kidnap, stalking offenses and offenses against multiple victims.

Subsequent to other sex offender proposals introduced over the past few years that included mandatory minimum sentences, some of which were met with widespread opposition, Sen. Kissel began working with his staff and Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane to reach a workable compromise. The bill that passed the Judiciary Committee was that compromise.

“Our intention from the start has been to come up with a bill that strengthens our laws against child predators and gives prosecutors more leverage when handling such cases. Additionally, we wanted to make sure that any proposal we crafted would garner wide-range support. Judging from last evening’s vote, it is my strong belief that we were able to meet those objectives and that we will see a change to this law this year.” said Sen. Kissel, who serves as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.

This legislation, which now goes to the floor of the Senate, changes the mandatory penalty. Under this law a first conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a minor will result in a 25 year sentence but a second offense will be met with a mandatory 50 year sentence. This change was a result of the prosecutor’s concern that any sentence of life imprisonment requires a probable cause hearing – a second hearing where a child victim would have to testify and face cross examination. In an effort to spare children from the trauma of testifying twice, and to prevent defense attorneys from having a second chance to derail a sentencing, a fifty year sentence was proposed.

The bill was patterned after Florida’s “Jessica’s Law,” that was passed in response to the kidnapping and killing of 9 year old Jessica Lunsford by a released pedophile.