Senate passes bill toughening penalty for disseminating intimate images, ban on gay panic defense (CT Mirror)

May 10, 2019

Article as it appears on CT Mirror

The penalty for disseminating intimate images without consent would be considerably more severe under a bill passed by the Senate Thursday.

“It addresses a pernicious issue, thankfully not rampant but so serious that when it actually does occur, it has the potential to ruin individuals’ lives,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, as he spoke in favor of the bill. “The dissemination of intimate images, especially regarding social media, has been gaining in traction over the years with the advent of more and more technology.”

Under the bill, if an intimate image is sent to more than one person by electronic means — without consent of the person in the image — it is a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

Under current law, the violation is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, up to a $2,000 fine, or both.

Kissel said that typically these cases occur when a relationship sours, and one of the parties sends out intimate photos of the other.

“Let’s say the guy has intimate images of his girlfriend,” Kissel said. “Now if he sent those pictures to her, that’s not a crime, but if he decides, almost like revenge porn, that he’s going to disseminate these embarrassing, personal intimate images to more than one individual … let’s say send to a couple friends  or post it on Facebook, think of the devastation that happens to that young woman.”

“In this day and age, once these intimate images are out there in the public, there’s no way to reel them back,” he said.

He said the bill, which was placed on the consent calendar, is a “a good ratcheting up” of the penalty to address the crime.

“We are adding another tool to the tool box of the state’s attorneys here in Connecticut,” Kissel said.

Juvenile car theft bill clears chamber

The Senate also passed a bill that provides for children charged with theft of a motor vehicle to be diverted from the criminal justice system into a program that provides treatment and services to help the child and address behavioral issues.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said the “juvenile would have to be willing to embrace services, almost like wrap around services for the young person and they would be on probation for six months. The idea is simply to nip the incidents in the bud and turn these young people’s lives around as soon as possible so they never really enter into the criminal justice system.”

“I don’t want juveniles to go into the criminal justice system,” Kissel said. “I want law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.”

Sen. John Kissel

A study is included in the bill to help determine why these crimes are occurring.

“Is this silly joyriding? Is it some sort of way to get into gangs?” he asked. “Is it just boredom? We need to get to the bottom of all this because we can’t figure out a solution until we have deep knowledge of what the actual problems are.”

Senate passes ban on gay panic defense

Additionally, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a measure Thursday to ban the so-called gay panic defense, a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for a defendant’s actions.

It has been invoked in crimes as serious as homicide, including by defendants in the case of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming who was beaten, tortured and bound to a fence in 1998. Shepard died six days later from severe head injuries.

A lawyer for one of the two men charged with his murder claimed that his client only intended to rob Shepard, but killed him in a rage after Shepard made a sexual advance. The lawyer argued that his client was driven to temporary insanity by the advance.

The defendants in that case both received two consecutive life sentences.

Three other states – California, Rhode Island and Illinois – have passed legislation banning the practice. New York is now weighing a similar bill.

“According to research from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, these defenses have been used or attempted to be used in approximately half of the states at one time or another,” Sen. President Pro Tem Martin Looney said. “We’ve had reports of it in Connecticut, especially in circumstances where someone solicits a prostitute and the prostitute turns out to be other than the customer intended and reacts violently. … The result in many cases has led to a reduction in charges for some offenders.”

Looney said the legal maneuver has been used in cases of temporary insanity or diminished capacity.

Kissel said the state already has some of the strongest hate crime laws, but praised the effort to pass a ban on the gay panic defense.

“I can’t for the life of me imagine any defense counsel worth his or her salt trying to use this as a defense, but as a policy statement at the least, saying to the people of Connecticut: There’s absolutely no way that one could defend themselves because they were surprised that someone was gay or transgender – I think that is appropriate public policy,” Kissel said.

The measure now heads to the House.