By Matthew Arco | January 30th, 2014 - 12:01pm
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Jessica Lunsford Act again clears Senate committee

TRENTON – Senate lawmakers unanimously released legislation from committee Thursday that would impose mandatory minimum prison terms for people guilty of sexually assaulting children.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted again to send the Jessica Lunsford Act to the floor of the Senate. The proposal would enforce a 25-year mandatory sentence in most cases of sexual assault in which the victim is a child.

“It’s not the one the chairman is looking for nor is it the one I was looking for,” said Sen. Diane Allen (R-7), adding, however, that it was “a start.”

A version of the bill was passed by the entire Senate during a previous session but was then “watered down” after the proposal went through the Assembly, said Allen. However, the bill was reintroduced in an effort to get a version of the legislation enacted, she said.

“This is an important issue for all of the people of the state and we need to get going on this,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-21).

The bill also would include hindering apprehension as a fourth-degree crime punishable by a mandatory minimum of six months to a maximum of 18 months.

The Senate passed its version in October 2012, but following that the Assembly proposal was amended as it worked its way through the committee process, according to Kean.  The minimum prison term was reduced from 25 to 15 years, and the hindering provision was eliminated.

The bill is dubbed the “Jessica Lunsford Act,’’ in memory of a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a registered sex offender.

The committee also unanimously released S504, which would make it a second-degree crime if the operator of a boat knowingly leaves the scene of an accident that results in the death of another person.

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