Senator Kissel Lauds Senate Passage of “Jessica’s Law”

May 29, 2007

State Senator John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, today announced that a measure to increase penalties against those convicted of sex crimes against children has unanimously passed the state Senate. 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, Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane and leaders of the Judiciary Committee to reach a workable compromise. The bill that passed the Senate today is that compromise.

“This is extraordinarily important legislation. It is my hope however that we never have to use it,” said Sen. Kissel. “We put a lot of time and effort into crafting this legislation. 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. This law delivers on those aims and has garnered widespread support.” said Sen. Kissel, who serves as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.

This legislation, which now goes to the House of Representatives, 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.