McKinney Leads Senate Passage of Jessica’s Law for Connecticut

May 30, 2007

Bill Establishes Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentences for Sexual Assault of a Child, Takes Aim at Growing Threat of Online Child Predators

Hartford, CT – Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) took a giant step toward accomplishing a major legislative goal Tuesday when the Connecticut State Senate unanimously passed Jessica’s Law for Connecticut. The law, which Senator McKinney and fellow Senate Republicans have fought to enact since 2006, establishes mandatory minimum jail sentences (25 yrs for a first offense, 50 yrs for a second) for adults accused of sexually assaulting a child.

The bill also targets the increasing number of child sex crimes committed online by establishing mandatory minimum prison terms (5 yrs for a first offense, 10 yrs for a second) for adults who use the Internet to attempt to entice a child age 12 and under into sexual contact. This measure was a key provision of the Internet Child Protection Act introduced by Senator McKinney in January.

“This is one of the most important bills we will pass this session,” said Senator McKinney. “Our laws, for too long, have not been tough enough on child predators. With this new law, we are sending a strong message to parents and children that child molesters will be dealt with severely. We are sending a strong message to child predators that they will be caught and sent to prison for a very long time. And we are sending a strong message to our judges that sexual assault of a child warrants a serious punishment that fits the gravity of this heinous crime.”

Jessica’s Law for Connecticut creates a new crime, “aggravated sexual assault of a minor,” for adults who commit 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.

“We know that child predators are more likely than any other criminal to repeat their offenses, and we know the physical and emotional scars on their victims never go away,” said Senator McKinney. “There is at present no reliable way to rehabilitate these offenders, and society simply cannot tolerate the threat of their addiction. Sentencing of these criminals must be severe. Not as a deterrent, but as a necessary measure to prevent these assailants from striking again.”

Subsequent to other sex offender proposals, some of which were met with widespread opposition, Senate Republicans began working with Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane to reach a workable solution to strengthen Connecticut’s laws regarding child predators. The bill passed Tuesday is the result of those discussions.

The original Jessica’s Law was passed in Florida in response to the kidnapping and killing of nine year old Jessica Lunsford. Jessica was abducted from her bedroom by a released pedophile. Her body was later found in a shallow grave, encased in two black plastic garbage bags, her hands clutching a stuffed animal. She suffocated to death after being raped and buried alive.

McKinney and fellow Senate Republicans pressed the General Assembly to pass Jessica’s Law throughout the 2006 session. Regrettably, while the Senate was able to pass a compromise bill, Jessica’s Law was quietly pigeonholed in the House and session adjourned before the measure was ever brought up for a vote. McKinney is more optimistic about the bill’s fate this year.

“We have fought hard to pass this bill and we’ve changed a lot of minds along the way,” said Senator McKinney. “Jessica’s Law for Connecticut is finally receiving the bi-partisan support it has always deserved. It passed the Judiciary Committee and the Senate unanimously, and we expect the House to pass this law before session adjourns on June 6. Parents and their children are counting on us.”