Senator Kissel Helps Lead Fight for “Jessica’s Law” in Connecticut

April 2, 2007

State Senator John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, said today that a bill (SB 1458) has been raised by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee increasing penalties against those convicted of sex crimes against children. 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. According to Sen. Kissel, who serves as Ranking on the Judiciary Committee, a public hearing will be held on the legislation on Wednesday, April 4th, at 11:00 a.m., in hearing room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

“The intention of this bill is to create something that would strengthen our laws against child predators as well as give prosecutors more leverage when handling such cases,” said Sen. Kissel. “There has been a great deal of debate as to whether or not mandatory minimum sentences would make convictions less likely. This legislation addresses those concerns.”

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 Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane to reach a workable compromise. SB 1458 addresses those concerns and is the proposed compromise.

This legislation 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.