House GOP Fights to Reintroduce 20-Year Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Child Predators

Republicans in the Maryland House of Delegates used as procedural maneuver to delay floor vote on the package of seven child sex offender bills approved by the judiciary committee last Friday. According to the Washington Post, Republicans are stalling the bills in order to introduce amendments, which would reconstitute HB 254, the bill mandating 20 year mandatory minimum sentences for second degree child rape and molestation. Judiciary committee chairman Joe Vallario, has refused to bring that bill up for a vote.

The House is expected to vote on the measures today.

Yesterday, Citizens for Jessica’s Law held a rally in front of the state house, featuring Mark Lunsford to urge passage of Senate bills 622 and 395, which respectively call for 20 year mandatory minimums and elimination of good behavior credits for child sex offenders convicted of second degree offenses. The difference between first and second degree offenses is the use of a weapon and an accomplice. Lunsford told the rally “The message to sexual predators is, hey, don’t have a weapon, and don’t have anybody with you when you do it, and we’ll only give you five years.”

Earlier in the day Lunsford appeared on Shari Elliker show on WBAL Radio. You can listen to the interview here.

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Lunsford’s daughter, daughter Jessica was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a paroled child sex offender in Florida. In 2007, Vallario and a recalcitrant Democratic majority were the main obstacles to passing Jessica’s Law in Maryland.

At the rally, House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell (R-Calvert County) said of delay, “We’re going to take a closer look at them to make sure that very important provisions haven’t been watered down or haven’t been removed.”

The original parcel of bills set to be voted on contain Governor Martin O’Malley’s legislative proposals, which amount to political window dressing for his reelection campaign. For example, his bill calling for “lifetime supervision” of convicted sex offenders (including GPS monitoring) is misleading because it allows for offenders to petition for release from state supervision after a period of five years. A 13-year old Washington state girl was allegedly raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender while wearing a GPS monitoring device.

Why the governor urged Vallario to approve his own measures and not HB 254 is peculiar given the strong public support for strengthening child sex offender laws in the wake of the murder of Sarah Foxwell last December in Salisbury. O’Malley, who postures as a “tough on crime,” did nothing to help Jessica’s Law move through the legislature in 2007. His own Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown, a trial lawyer himself twisted arms on the floor of the House to kill Jessica’s Law in 2006.

Governor O’Malley needs to step up and publicly lend his support and advocate for 20-year mandatory minimum sentences for second degree child rape and molestation.

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