Rell takes aim at sexual predators
On Friday, Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell asked for legislation that would increase penalties on sexual predators who go online to entice minors into sexual activity and simplify laws to prosecute offenders. "Sexual predators know no bounds and have no shame," Rell said in a written statement. "Sadly, the results can be deadly." The Connecticut Department of Public Safety and the Chief State's Attorney's Office support the legislation, according to the lieutenant governor's office. The legislature's Judiciary Committee will first consider the legislation. "Those who sexually exploit and abuse children are committing the most heinous of crimes," Rell said. "Unfortunately, the Internet is increasingly being used by pornographers to lure children into their web of sexual abuse." The bill, if passed, would do several things to protect children and make penalties tougher on convicted sex offenders. The bill would require those convicted of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity to be listed on the sex offender registry. It would make the first conviction of enticing a minor a felony instead of a misdemeanor. It would also make child exploitation and child pornography statutes easier to understand and enforce. Making the complicated laws more clear would be important in helping to prosecute the cases, said Danbury Police Sgt. Mark Williams. "Making the language of the statutes easier to understand and apply would be very important," Williams said. "You need a law degree, or a group of lawyers, to understand them now." The legislation would create different degrees of possession of child pornography. So, under the proposal, a person who possesses thousands of images will be punished more harshly than someone with two or three images. The bill requires a person convicted of enticing a minor for sex, and importing or possessing child pornography, to be sentenced to at least 10 years probation on top of their prison sentence. The probation period wouldn't exceed 35 years under the proposal. It would also prohibit accelerated rehabilitation for enticing a minor, and importing or possessing child pornography. Finally the proposal would require Connecticut to honor subpoenas, court orders and search warrants issued by other states for Internet subscriber records. Williams welcomes the proposal and said there have been high profile cases of Internet predators. But, he said the bigger problems often aren't on the computer. "Anything we can do to protect kids, whether on the Internet or elsewhere, is a plus," Williams said. "In Danbury, we've got more than our share of sexual abuse cases. Most of it's not coming from the Internet. We get most reports from social workers." While Rell encourages parents to be vigilant in protecting their children on the Internet, she said the proposed law goes a long way in strengthening statutes. "This proposal will help police and prosecutors find and punish these repulsive sexual predators and child pornographers," Rell said. "Protecting our children is one of our most sacred trusts." Contact Fred Lucas at email@example.com or at (203) 731-3358.